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A uniquely wonderful conference

News | August 1, 2010 | By:

The conferences that most of us involved with geosynthetics attend follow similar formats. The larger ones (i.e., more than 1,000 attendees) have keynote lectures and are then followed by simultaneous sessions subdivided by specific themes. The papers delivered have been peer reviewed and are included on a CD or proceedings given to all participants. Evenings are set aside for meetings of various professional groups associated with the relevant technology. Included in this group, among others, are the following:

  • IGS and its national affiliates such as NAGS
  • continental conferences such as EuroGeo, GeoAsia, andGeoAmericas
  • conferences sponsored by IFAI or cosponsored with groups such as the Geo-Institute of ASCE
  • international symposium on earth reinforcement in Japan
  • international conference on geosynthetic clay liners in Germany
  • international landfill conference in Italy

There are many other smaller conferences (up to 300 attendees) that follow this model but are not nearly as rigorous—they are without paper reviews and rarely have simultaneous sessions. They either have no proceedings or only reprint the various speaker’s slides. While they have lower attendance, they are equally as intense and often last into the evening with specialty meetings focused on the group’s mandate. Included in this group, among others, are:

  • regional or state geotechnical conferences
  • regional or state environmental conferences
  • conferences on erosion and sediment control, hardscaping, and ground modification
  • corporate sponsored conferences
  • university organized conferences
  • organization or institute sponsored conferences

For all of these conferences, both large and small, days and evenings are chock-full of scheduled events and meetings. If you have ever taken your spouse, she or he was probably left alone for most of the conference, exceedingly bored throughout, and would rarely attend another such event.

Completely different from that description is the “Solid Waste & Recycling Conference” hosted by the New York Federation of Solid Waste Associations. This state federation is a multifaceted organization. Included under the its organizational umbrella are the:

  • NYS Chapter of the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA)
  • NYS Association for Solid Waste Management (NYSASWM)
  • NYS Association for Reduction, Reuse and Recycling (NYSAR3)

The goals of the Federation are to:

  • develop appropriate public policy and legislative recommendations for consideration by state and federal representatives.
  • coordinate memberships and mailings.
  • coordinate and conduct an annual joint conference.

Each of the three member associations has developed a mission statement that reflects its individual goals to promote sound solid waste management practices in concert with the New York State solid waste management hierarchy: reduction, reuse, recycling, resource recovery through waste-to-energy facilities, and landfilling of discarded materials.

Importantly, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS-DEC) is fully involved in the technical and regulatory issues pertinent to the sessions and (when appropriate) adding value to the participants.

Throughout the year, the three member Associations conduct their own educational and training events. These one- or two-day events are regularly held throughout the state, covering the broad spectrum of solid waste management issues. Continuing education and New York professional engineering development hours are frequently offered.

The three organizations of the Federation come together each spring for their annual conference with an agenda that targets emerging issues and technologies important to solid waste management facility owners, policymakers, design engineers, and regulators alike. This conference typically attracts more than 700 public and private sector solid waste and recycling professionals to a technical program with about 90 presentations and an expanded trade show that is supported by about 120 exhibitors.

Since 2000, the Conference and Trade Show has been held at The Sagamore, an exquisite resort located on Lake George in upstate New York. The Sagamore, one of New York’s landmark hotels, is situated on its own 80-acre island and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The technical sessions are 90 minutes and usually consist of three presentations, which gives sufficient time for questions and answers. The exhibits are open throughout the event and time is available for individual discussions.

The ambience surrounding the sessions and exhibits is excellent. Ample time for off-hour networking opportunities is available and it even includes fireworks, golfing, hiking, fishing, boating, horseback riding, lawn games, culinary demonstrations, a casino night, and moonlit meandering in a wonderful setting. This is a conference where your spouse definitely wants to accompany you.

Of course, there are always several tracks devoted to geosynthetics. This year there were two sessions:

  • New Horizons in Geosynthetics (1.5 PDHs), which had six short presentations on new developments within geosynthetic materials.
  • New Horizons in Geosynthetics (1.5 PDHs), which had six short presentations on new developments within geosynthetic materials.

Both were very successful with overflow audiences of 100+ attendees.

Next year the conference will again be at The Sagamore May 1–4, 2011. It is highly recommended and information can be accessed through the Federation’s website:

Bob Koerner, Ph.D., P.E., NAE, is the director of Geosynthetic Institute (GSI) and is a member of Geosynthetics magazine’s Editorial Advisory Committee. GSI: +1 610 522 8440.

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