2022 EEC|CCNY WTERT Conference brought together innovators in sustainable waste management

The bi-annual WTERT Conference resumed in October of 2022 at The City College of New York after a COVID-imposed hiatus. The in-person event benefitted from global participation. Two days of sessions covered academic and industrial topics. The President of CCNY, Dr. Vincent Boudreua, opened up the proceedings for plenary speakers Doug Wicks (US Department of of Energy ARPA-E), David Biederman (SWANA), and Michael Van Brunt (Covanta).

Opening plenary speakers

Attendees from years past again participated in the 2022 conference, and new faces were very much welcomed to add their fresh perspective to the waste-to-energy material and energy recovery conversation.

Members from the WTERT Council and industry
WTERT Council members

Research Associates from EEC|CCNY and the Combustion and Catalysis Lab presented their latest research in poster and oral presentations.

We look forward to hosting the next conference in order to continue the rich exchange of ideas and lively discussion.

Two EEC|CCNY Research Associates graduate with Master’s degrees

Congratulations to Golam Chowdhury and Lauren Creadore who recently graduated from The City College of New York. Both students earned Master’s degrees (M. Eng.) after completing their dissertations on pyrolysis and combustion respectively. Golam earned a Master’s in Engineering in Chemical Engineering and published a thesis titled ‘Investigation of Recyclable Crude Oil from Biomass and Plastics’. Lauren earned a Master’s in Engineering in Mechanical Engineering and published a thesis titled ‘A Study of Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Performance of an Internal Combustion Engine Operating on Landfill Gas Blends as Fuel’. They have both continued to conduct research post-graduation.

CCNY PhD student in Chemical Engineering wins ASME Floyd Hasselriis Award

Kaitlyn Lawrence was one of the recipients of the ‘2021-2022 Floyd Hasselriis Educational Support’ awards sponsored by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers’ (ASME) Materials and Energy Recovery Division. Kaitlyn is a second year PhD student conducting research in the Combustion and Catalysis Lab directed by Professor Marco J. Castaldi.

The Floyd Hasselriis award was established to support students and institutions interested in solid waste management and related fields, is named after the late Floyd Hasselriis, a major contributor to the fields of incineration and thermal treatment technologies and author of the foremost text on the topic of refuse-derived fuel.

Congratulations Kaitlyn!

Recent EEC|CCNY study on advanced recycling receives news coverage from several scientific and recycling-oriented publications

In order to shed light on the current state of advanced recycling technologies, EEC|CCNY conducted a study on recent life cycle assessments of advanced recycling. The full report can found here. The technical report highlighted key data that were obtained from multiple life cycle assessments, and comparisons were made across the LCAs to accurately capture the greenhouse gas impact of these technologies.

This report was of interest to several publications that cover scientific and recycling news, including Science Magazine, who found the study relevant to the latest news in atmospheric science, Recycling Today, and Science Daily.

Curbed Magazine sheds light on MSW in NYC with an article featuring Professor Castaldi

Issues pertaining to waste were covered in Curbed, a part of New York magazine, as part of their ‘Hot Garbage Month’ (August 2022). From this article series, Professor Castaldi consulted on and was quoted in an article that the captures the waste issues in NYC quite accurately.  This article also includes many other experts and practitioners in the waste management area that clearly have extensive knowledge and practical experience trying to sustainably manage the trash NYC citizens produce every day. The full article can be found here: https://www.curbed.com/2022/08/nyc-trash-landfill-incineration-recycling-compost-voyage-gross.html.

CNBC produces video feature on waste to energy which includes contribution from Professor Marco J. Castaldi

CNBC offers coverage of the various waste management strategies in California, highlighting, in particular, Waste to Energy. The video features technical experts in the field including Susan Thorneloe of the U.S. Environmental Protection agency (who has published policy analysis work such as “Is It Better To Burn or Bury Waste for Clean Electricity Generation?”), and Professor Marco J. Castaldi of CCNY.

Viewers get an inside look at a Covanta Waste to Energy facility, the Stanislaus Resource Recovery Facility, that operates at net energy output of 20 megawatts and takes in nearly 30,000 tons of waste annually. This capaicity is sufficient to power approximately 18,000 homes.

When asked about the relative merits between landfill and Waste to Energy, Susan Thorneloe pointed to the merits of Wate to Energy being the extraction of the energy value from the waste, the metal recovery, and the avoidance of methane that is produced in the landfill alternative scenario.

Advanced recycling of plastics opined on in Syracuse newspaper

A recent guest opinion piece in The Post-Standard newspaper (web address syracuse.com) discussed advanced recycling of plastics. That article can be found here. In an effort to disseminate accurate scientific and engineering information, Professor Marco J. Castaldi has written a letter to the editor in response to the original opinion, specifically drawing distinction between various technologies which are sometimes conflated, misunderstood, and/or mischaracterized. The full text of this letter is reprinted immediately below.

To the Editor:

Recent op-ed writers went to great lengths to mischaracterize emergent technologies that are developing to manage nearly 90% of plastics that do not get recycled today (”Plastic burning ‘has no place in climate-forward NY’ (Guest Opinion by Judith Enck and Tok M. Oyewole),” March 14, 2022).

Advanced recycling technologies focus on hard-to-recycle plastics such as flexible pouches, films and tubes, converting them back into their raw materials to be used to make new plastics. This process allows plastics to be recycled each time a product is disposed by the consumer.

The writers call this “burning,” which is completely incorrect. Their characterization represents a clear misunderstanding of technologies and thermodynamic principles. Typical advanced recycling technologies operate with no oxygen or air to convert post-use plastics to a liquid or gaseous state. Incineration destroys waste materials by burning, without recovering energy or materials. This is entirely different from advanced recycling.

Advanced recycling technologies today are being deployed by both large plastics companies and multiple entrepreneurial enterprises to “remake” once non-recyclable plastics. These technologies will divert non-recycled plastics from landfills and the environment.

Advanced recycling enables the creation of new plastics from used plastics, displacing the need to extract fossil feedstock. Importantly, they operate like other manufacturing facilities, subject to federal, state and local regulations. A recent study found air emissions from a typical advanced recycling facility to be roughly the same as familiar facilities such as hospitals, universities and food manufacturers.

Innovative technologies need time to mature and often are confused with existing ones, and the op-ed authors have added to that confusion. It is not helpful when mischaracterizations and poor understanding are disseminated. As New York state considers how to recover its non-recycled plastics, it would be sensible to listen to scientists and engineers who understand advanced plastics recycling technologies.

Marco J. Castaldi, Ph.D.

Professor, Chemical Engineering Department

Director, Earth System Science and Environmental Engineering Program

The City College of New York

New York City

Professor Castaldi discusses the role of advanced recycling methods in maintaining value for post-consumer, non-recyclable plastics with Dr. Rachael Meidl of Rice University

The Sustainably Speaking podcast series hosted by Joshua Baca from America’s Plastic Makers features conversations with key figures, including those in industry, government, academia, and the consumer circle, who are helping to create a more sustainable future. Episode 7 features Rice University’s Dr. Rachel Meidl and CCNY’s Dr. Marco Castaldi as they dive into the science behind advanced recycling. The podcast episode, titled Advanced Recycling: Combining Science and Sustainability, can be heard here.

EEC|CCNY WtERT conference postponement

Updated July 27, 2021

Dear Colleagues,

You may recall that we postponed our Fall 2020 EEC/WTERT bi-Annual Conference to this coming Fall 2021. Since that postponement there have been a few developments that require us to again postpone our meeting to Fall 2022. Currently, there is no firm new date but we are excited to share that the conference will occur in the Fall of 2022 as an in-person event. We have delayed this decision for as long as possible to incorporate the most updated and current information. New York has recently lifted all COVID-19 restrictions across all commercial and social settings, and several large (>800 people) events are set to take place here in NYC in the near future. We will monitor these upcoming events to provide us with some insight on the ability and willingness of people to travel and interact with colleagues from around the world. City College is also set to go to an in-person course structure for the upcoming school year, and by the end of Fall 2021 we will know how well that performed.

In addition, there have been some recent developments in the U.S. regarding interest in using MSW for energy and materials recovery. Specifically, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) has announced funding to several teams focused on advancing waste-to-energy technology. These teams are a part of ARPA-E’s Monetizing Innovative Disposal Applications and Solutions (MIDAS) and Waste into X (WiX) topics. MIDAS teams are developing technologies for the recovery and reclamation of critical materials (CMs) and other valuable elements from Municipal Solid Waste Incineration (MSWI). WiX projects are working to advance the improvement of the physical or chemical properties of MSWI ash into valuable products. Additional information on these projects can be found on the ARPA-E website. Similar efforts are also being developed at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO). These projects are just getting underway this year; therefore, we anticipate that our postponement will yield some abstract submissions from that program enabling us to expand the presentation and networking.

Finally, we are committed to ensure that we can have the international participation that our conference normally enjoys. For example, in 2018 there were a total of 12 countries represented that spanned several time zones (Belgium, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Korea, Sudan, UK and US). Additionally, an important component of our conference is the person-to-person interaction that allows attendees to make new connections and collaborations that normally would not occur in other settings. That interaction cannot happen in a virtual environment and the spontaneous discussions on the scientific topics also cannot occur via an on-line format.

Therefore, please look toward to Fall 2022 to be in New York City for the bi-annual EEC/WTERT conference. We will have a new call for abstracts and will provide updated information throughout the year.


The EEC Team