Company is Partnering with Lehigh’s Enterprise Systems Center and Ben Franklin Technology Partners to Revolutionize Land Reclamation
Material Solution Services, Inc. (MSS), Northampton, has applied for approval from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PA DEP) to commercialize new composite materials that can be used for general fill in land development, construction material, and mine reclamation. Private industry, higher education, and an economic development organization have partnered to develop this promising technology that will address major problems in environmental reclamation. The technology developed here may have worldwide applications.
In eastern Pennsylvania, there are hundreds of thousands of tons per year of benign and inert materials consuming valuable local municipal landfill space. As the region’s population growth continues and precious municipal landfill space becomes scarcer, reuse technologies are critical to sustainable waste management in the Commonwealth.
Material Solution Services and Lehigh University’s Enterprise Systems Center (ESC) and Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, in partnership with the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania, have developed a solution to two crucial reclamation problems:
- Pennsylvania is running out of landfill space. It is imperative to maximize recycling efforts by finding alternative uses for benign, inert waste streams, which are tremendously space consumptive in landfills. Existing recycling facilities are under huge financial strain for disposal costs generated because of the small fraction of material they cannot recycle in these streams. Developing beneficial uses that can utilize these materials is the key to sustaining recycling programs and conserving landfill space.
- There are many quarries and mines in Pennsylvania that are no longer operational and are now left as vacant and unproductive land. Not only are these large areas wasteful, they also end up becoming depositories of junk cars, tires, and debris. In addition, there are as many of 20 deaths in Pennsylvania each year due to people falling into abandoned quarries. Turning these properties back into usable properties by recycling the land saves valuable green space.
The Ben Franklin Technology Partners invested a total of $50,000 in Material Solution Services to complete the formulation of the novel composite materials for general fill in land development, construction material, and mine reclamation. The formulations identified in this work employ a combination of various inert, residual waste streams in conjunction with a proprietary binding agent to create a safe fill material for the reclamation of abandoned quarries. The goal is to safely reclaim the land and provide opportunities for development.
Lehigh University Civil and Environmental Engineering Ph.D. students have conducted more than 1,100 tests under the direction of Professor John Fox to identify a formula for reclamation or general fill material that is chemically, physically, and mechanically stable. The composite can incorporate portions of Recovered Screen Material (RSM) from construction and demolition recycling operations, glass fines from single-stream (household) recycling, and other benign residuals. The proprietary process renders the material productive, thereby addressing both reclamation problems cost-effectively.
Industrial and Systems Engineering undergraduate students, under the guidance of Rear Admiral USN (ret.) Victor See and Robert Gustafson of the Enterprise Systems Center, provided strategic input, project management, and coordination of the interdisciplinary project team. Project collaboration among students, mentors, and Lehigh professors of the Industrial and Systems Engineering department and Civil and Environmental Engineering department allowed for the close coordination of the material formula development and testing. Products will address industry requirements and meet Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PA DEP) requirements.
Governor Tom Wolf has identified land reclamation as a key objective in Pennsylvania, offering both economic and environmental value. For every acre of brownfields restored, Pennsylvania saves approximately four acres of green space. The use of MSS’s engineered products will provide the following benefits to Pennsylvania:
- Land recycling – Unfunded, abandoned non-coal quarries, many of which are in prime industrial areas, may be reclaimed at no expense to taxpayers or the Commonwealth.
- Improved recycling efficiency – Utilizes portions of previously landfilled materials from household single stream recyclers and construction and demolition recyclers.
- Jobs – Business/industrial park job rates exceed nine jobs per acre.
- Land values and tax revenue – 8- to 12-fold increases in assessed land values and increased tax revenues.
- Reduced use of valuable landfill space – 250,000-tons reduction per year in eastern PA alone.
- Reduced cost of development — with a more cost effective and environmentally safe use of certain residual waste streams.
Material Solutions Services will invest as much as $2,000,000 in capital equipment purchases to make the technology commercially viable. Lehigh University has performed the first phase of research and development of this technology.
About Material Solution Services
Material Solution Services, Inc. (MSS), Northampton, provides environmental consulting services in the recycling industry and environmental soils management services for developers and contractors throughout the northeast. MSS determines the proper recycling or disposal options available to developers and contractors and uses recycling or disposal facilities throughout the United States. MSS’s staff of environmental professionals with previous regulatory and operational experience reviews, approves, and oversees all materials accepted.
About the Lehigh University Enterprise Systems Center
The Enterprise Systems Center (ESC) is a Lehigh University Research Center. Under the guidance of Dr. Emory Zimmers, Professor of Industrial and Systems Engineering, it has been a national center of excellence in systems engineering and leadership development through experiential learning for several decades.
Working in close collaboration with the Industrial Systems Engineering department, the ESC develops relationships with industry partners (clients), engaging in high return-on-investment consulting projects that are often interdisciplinary. It is recognized for its utilization of semi-retired industry executives and Lehigh faculty and staff, as it has in this work with MSS and Lehigh Professor John Fox, Ph.D., of the Civil and Environmental Engineering department. The Center stresses a systems approach, leadership development, and consideration of the latest competitive differentiators. ESC has earned national recognition for its work in manufacturing competitiveness, sustainability, advanced analytics, and leadership development.
Since its inception, more than 1,125 research and development projects with over 450 industry partners have been completed, involving more than 4,125 undergraduate and graduate students from the engineering, business, and arts/science colleges.
Pictured above, L to R: Senior Fellow/Mentor, Victor See, Lehigh University Undergraduate Student Logan Herr, and Dr. Emory Zimmers, Director and ISE Professor collaborating on an industry project with Material Solutions Services, Inc.
Pictured above, L to R: Logan Herr, Kun Yang, Mike MacDougall, Pan Ni Victor See and John Fox
Lehigh University Graduate Students Kun Yang and Pan Ni explain what they were able to apply from what they learned in the classroom to an industry project with Material Solution Services, Inc.