James Law, Chair of the ISWA Working Group on Landfill : "You always gain something through ISWA’s network and friendship"

James Law Cartoon
© Kellermayr

The International Solid Waste Association (ISWA) is an international network of waste professionals and experts from around the world whose mission is “to promote and develop sustainable and professional waste management worldwide and the transition to a circular economy.” Numerous members have been part of the ISWA family for many years and have made a valuable contribution to the field of waste management. One of them is James Law. He was elected to serve as an Honorary Member of ISWA at the last ISWA World Congress in Oman.

Currently a Vice President at SCS Engineers in Solid Waste Division and International Service James Law has over 36 years of experience in civil/geotechnical engineering and solid waste management serving as National Expert in Geotechnical Engineering/Landfill Engineering on both national and international projects. He has extensive project experience for both private and public sectors in landfill design, construction, operations, management and regulations, both in the US and in developing economies such as Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and China. He is an expert in estimating landfill leachate generation quantity and also evaluating dumpsite slope failures and remediation efforts.

James served as a board member of the International Solid Waste Association (ISWA) from 2017-2023. Currently, he is the Chair of the ISWA Working Group on Landfill and the Task Force on Closing Dumpsites Initiative. Additionally, he is certified as an ISWA International Waste Manager (IWM) with International status.

He is also an active member of the SWANA Landfill Management Technical Division and a member of the Leachate Management Committee. He is SWANA certified (SC) as Manager of Landfill Operations (MOLO) as well as Manager of Leachate Management & Bioreactor Landfills. In addition, James is certified as a Landfill Operation and Transfer Station Operation Specialist by the North Carolina Chapter of SWANA.

James Law graduated with a Bachelor of Applied Science and Master of Engineering in Geotechnical Engineering at the University of Toronto, Canada. He is licensed as a Professional Engineer in multiple states in the USA and certified as BCEE by the American Academy of Environmental Engineers with a speciality in Environmental Sustainability. He is an active member of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE). Finally, on the subject of going green and sustainability, and practising leadership in energy and environmental Design, he is a LEED Accredited Professional (AP) in Building Design & Construction (BD+C) by the US Green Building Council (USGBC).

In a one-on-one interview, he talks about his start at ISWA, his favourite ISWA moment and why he thinks it is important for waste management professionals to join the association.

There is hope for us to do something to change the dumpsite operations through proper and planned education and public outreach programmes while solving technology or financial challenges.
James Law

When did you join ISWA and what motivated you to join ISWA?

“I joined ISWA probably during or right after the 2008 World Congress in Singapore where I gave a presentation on Landfill Slope Stability Evaluation as well as conducted a training workshop on leachate generation estimation using the HELP model. At ISWA, the ability of a waste management professional to network with the industry and gain valuable experience from peers on some key international issues and challenges such as land, water, and air pollution prevention and resource management has been my biggest motivation and reason to join ISWA.”

What did you gain from your membership in ISWA? And how has it helped you in your career since joining?

“SCS Engineers has been an ISWA Silver organization member since 1998 and only this year (2024) we upgraded to GOLD membership. Hence, I enjoy a free internal membership through my company. For the last 15-plus years, I have had a huge network of peers and friends through ISWA national members and organisation members as well as individual or student members from many countries. I have learned so much from these people and been able to share my experience with them and enjoyed working on these international projects in providing assistance and consultancy which are very rewarding. Being part of ISWA, I have connections with the rest of the world to learn about business opportunities as well as new emerging technologies that apply to our waste industry and this for sure has helped with advancing my career over the years.”

What is your current/ past role at ISWA? And what are the highlights of your journey to said role?

“I began to attend and present at each World Congress in 2008. I also attended the Working Group on Landfill (WGL) planning meetings on and off until 2014 I was elected as the vice-chair of the WGL. Then in 2018, I was elected as the Chair of the WGL first term. At the same time, I was also the Chair of the Task Force on Closing Dumpsites. In 2022 I was elected to a second term as Chair of WGL. In 2017 when the World Congress was in Baltimore USA, I was elected to the Board of ISWA representing the organization members in, my first term. Then in 2019 and 2021, I was re-elected to the Board on a second and third term, respectively. Lastly, at the closing of the General Assembly meeting in Oman World Congress 2023, I was surprised and honoured to be nominated by our President, Carlos Silva Filho and the Board and was approved unanimously by national members to become an Honorary Member. All in all, my journey with ISWA is not over yet…. Stay tuned for Part 2!”

What is your favourite memory at ISWA?

“With countless trips to dumpsites all around the world attempting to solve at the time unsolvable problems and challenges, these were shocking moments of my life the living conditions of the waste pickers and badly polluted environment and yet little has been done about it over a long period. However, I was always cheered up by the warmth and hospitality of the people that I met in each municipality, in each country that I visited. There is hope for us to do something to change the dumpsite operations through proper and planned education and public outreach programmes while solving technology or financial challenges. My recent favourite memory is the surprise that I received at the General Assembly in Oman where I got emotional and speechless when receiving the honour of my lifetime – an Honorary Member of ISWA. Thank you all!”

It is true that ISWA membership and its communities have absolutely had a positive influence on my career advancement this far.
James Law

Has your career in waste management grown in a way/taken a positive turn that ISWA influenced?

“It is true that ISWA membership and its communities have absolutely had a positive influence on my career advancement this far. And the ISWA network has contributed to improve the circular economy and to promote better and sustainable waste management practices worldwide.”

According to you why is it key to be a part of an association like ISWA?

“ISWA, being a global waste and resource management Association, has evidently and successfully organized the first Waste and Resource Pavilion at COP28 in Dubai 2023, has showcased the depth and breadth of our waste professionals and experts who form the core group of our membership and are on voluntarily basis in supporting ISWA organized events. To experience the best waste management practices in circular economy and climate change challenges, one must associate with ISWA! An excellent example is our annual Winter School at the University of Texas at Arlington, Texas. Over the past 8 years, we have about 400 participants from over 90 countries and counting. It is incredible how much I learnt from the participants on waste management practices and needs in their respective countries and I feel blessed to be able to share my experience with them. The testimonies they posted on social media speak volumes. I am glad to be a part of the Winter School teaching faculty headed by Dr Sahadat Hossain.”

Why should someone (not yet an ISWA member) join as a member?

“I believe that one can really open their mind and perspective when they have a chance to interact with ISWA’s members and experts, whether they are teaching, sharing, or learning – You always gain something through ISWA’s network and friendship. I think when you become a member of ISWA, certain barriers such as cultural differences or countries of origin, become less important and you can tolerate such differences and become patient and listen more so you can understand better.”

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