Advancing Sustainable Waste Management in Latin America

President's Global Innovation Fund
Columbia Global Centers | Latin America (Rio de Janeiro)

The transition from non-regulated disposal of solid wastes to Sustainable Waste Management (SWM) is a major and pressing environmental issue for all urban centers.

Principal Investigator

Nickolas John Themelis, Associate Professor of Dental Medicine; Stanley - Thompson Professor of Chemical Metallurgy, Department of Earth and Environmental Engineering; director, Earth Engineering Center

With cities expanding their boundaries every year and economic development accompanied by  ever increasing generation of solid wastes, the collection and disposal systems that were once sufficient need to be updated by better means for recycling, composting, energy recovery and sanitary landfilling that conserve resources and land and also reduce the risk of contaminating water and air.

Academic institutions can play a very important role in advancing sustainable waste management and, of equal importance, informing the public and policymakers as to the need and means for doing so. Since its formation in 1995, the Earth Engineering Center has conducted research and educated engineers and scientists in this field. In 2002, EEC co-founded, with the U.S. Energy Recovery Council, the Waste-to-Energy Research and Technology Council that by now has sister organizations in thirteen nations, including China and India.  

This project grant will allow the Earth Engineering Center to organize a Workshop, to be held in conjunction with the 2014 international Meeting on Waste and Biomass Valorization in Brazil (Rio de Janeiro, August 2014), a workshop where representatives from several Latin America universities and research institutions will discuss ways for advancing Sustainable Waste Management in Latin America. It is expected that this event will lead to the formation of a WTERT-Latin America organization that includes Brazil, Mexico, Argentina and Chile and nurtures research and education collaborations among universities and the Columbia Global Centers in Latin America, with the overall goal of advancing SWM in the region.  

At the workshop, there will be presentations and discussion on four pre-feasibility case studies conducted by EEC in Buenos Aires-Argentina, Valparaiso-Chile, Toluca-Mexico and Montevideo-Uruguay.  WTERT-Brazil and WTERT-France have agreed to participate in this Workshop and their supporting letters are attached to this proposal. Additionally, key contributors to SWM research and practice in several Latin American nations will be invited to participate in this Workshop. The objective of the Workshop will be to identify the principal challenges/obstacles to SWM and explore the advantages of creating a regional WTERT organization.

The Planning grant will be used by EEC for planning and conducting this event, facilitating the participation of presenters from Latin America nations, and disseminating the results via the existing WTERT web and publications, in Spanish, Portuguese and English. It is hoped that this event will lead to the formation of a Latin America Sustainable Waste Management organization that may be the subject of a future Project Proposal to the President’s Global Innovation Fund.

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