Guest Blog | ISWA-SWIS Winter School 2019 Impressions

Aditi Ramola, Technical Director at ISWA, attended the ISWA-SWIS Winter School 2019 at the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA), Texas, USA, in January 2019. In this guest post, she shares her experiences from the course.

4 Mar 2019 -

The fourth edition of the ISWA-SWIS Winter School in 2019 saw over 45 participants from 24 countries take part in the two-week long program in North Texas. With the aim of giving students a comprehensive overview of sustainable waste management, the Winter School is a perfectly balanced mix of in-classroom lectures and discussions at the University of Texas, Arlington, and hands-on training on landfill and recycling operations at nearby landfills and waste facilities.


Over the course of two weeks, participants had the opportunity to interact with more than 35 speakers from a diverse background – international waste management professionals, academics, operation managers, landfill experts – and learn about landfill basics and operations, leachate management, slope stability, final cover design systems, bioreactors and bio-cell operations, landfill gas collection systems, material recovery facilities and much more. In-class lectures were followed by site visits to nearby waste facilities. Participants got to see a couple of landfills’ working faces in action, with collection trucks deposit the incoming waste, and talk to facility managers about the day to day operations. On the day of our visit to the Hunter Ferrell landfill in the City of Irving we had the unique opportunity to see the construction of a new cell . As the bottom was being dug up it exposed the unique insitu clay liner that is characteristic of the area. The picture below captures a rare moment with the cell construction in the background and a truck carrying the dug-up material – once the landfill cell is in operation the bottom will not see the light of day for decades to come.


On another such visit participants got not one but two opportunities to hand sort bags of fresh trash to conduct a municipal solid waste characterization and quantification analysis. The protective gear, including a face mask, did nothing to protect us from the odour – our group’s trash consisted of take away food packaging with food waste, light weight mixed plastics, some cans and traces of glass, metal and textiles. The highlights of the field visits were the instances we got to operate landfill equipment – wheel loaders, giant compaction trucks, motor graders – always under the proper guidance and watch of experienced operators of course!


In parallel to the Winter School programme, throughout the two weeks, participants were working on a group project on the “Use of Recycled Materials” which was presented on the last day. The training culminated in a panel discussion where experts shared their perspectives on global, national and local waste management practices.

The intense learning experience was punctuated by visits to NBA games, a tour of the City of Fort Worth and its Annual Stock Show, and a biryani dinner followed by a spontaneous karaoke evening. The two weeks concluded with a certificate ceremony followed by a memorable gala dinner. The final evening was celebrated with scrumptious food, singing and dancing. The picture (left, first from the top) shows one of the highlights of the evening – a “fashion show of cultures and traditional wear”.


At a time when urgent attention is being paid to the health and environmental costs of unmanaged waste the ISWA-SWIS Winter School affords the perfect environment and platform to discuss these issues with world experts in the field. I highly recommend participating in the ISWA-SWIS Winter School if you are interested in learning about sustainable waste management and applying these principles to lower- and middle-income economies. I also recommend the ISWA-SWIS Winter School if you believe in collaboration and learning from each other though shared experience since one of the unique highlights of the programme for me was also the breadth and depth of rich experiences from different countries around the world.


As it often happens training is needed in countries where it is least available or to those who can least afford it. SWIS is very aware of this and they want to make such necessary training more accessible. SWIS consistently awards several Winter School scholarships to young professionals and researchers. Recipients are selected through an essay competition on sustainable solid waste management. There are several scholarships available so watch this space for such opportunities.



About SWIS and ISWA


Established in January of 2015, the Solid Waste Institute for Sustainability (SWIS) is an Organized Research Center of Excellence (ORCE) at the University of Texas in Arlington, Texas, USA. The mission of SWIS is to promote clean and healthy urban cities through sustainable waste management practices.


In January 2016, SWIS and ISWA partnered up to collaborate on the ISWA-SWIS Winter School with the primary intention of offering students a comprehensive overview of sustainable waste management and landfill operations. 2020 will be the five-year anniversary of the ISWA-SWIS Winter School and will hopefully see an alumni meeting or a reunion of participants from over 75 countries the programme has reached so far.

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