James W. Levis

James W. Levis

North Carolina State University, Ph.D.
Francois Fiessinger Scholar 2009

The Effects of Climate Change Legislation on Solid Waste Management Operations

Project Description (while EREF Scholar):
It is hypothesized that as the cost of energy and emissions increase in response to GHG policy, the cost-effectiveness of SWM options will change. This will in turn alter optimal waste material flows as well as technology and process selections in future SWM strategies. Given the complexity and heterogeneity of SWM systems, rigorous analysis of system response under a GHG mitigation policy requires a modeling framework that links detailed process-level operations to an aggregate SWM strategy and to the larger energy system.

The goal of the proposed research is to scrutinize SWM performance at the system level while accounting for GHG mitigation policies, competing SWM objectives, and the uncertainty inherent in both. An integrated life-cycle optimization model will be developed to estimate the costs, energy use, emissions, and environmental impacts associated with the processes that constitute the SWM system. The model will be used to meet the following research objectives: (1) evaluate changes in integrated SWM strategies (i.e., waste flows and process choices) that most effectively respond to different GHG mitigation policies, (2) quantify effects of these policies on SWM-related environmental impacts (e.g., global warming, eutrophication, and acidification), and (3) characterize the effects of specific SWM policies (e.g., yard and food waste bans and diversion targets) in a carbon regulated environment.

An integrated linear programming model will be developed using process models based on the ISWM-DST life-cycle assessment model as well as results from an existing partial equilibrium economic model called MARKAL (MARket Allocation) to optimize the waste flows through the SWM system to determine the least cost and least environmental impact solutions. Uncertainty and sensitivity analyses will be performed to account for uncertainty and variability in inputs and to determine ranges on the output values.



In May 2004, Jim graduated with university and college research honors in mechanical engineering from Carnegie Mellon. After graduation, he worked at Westinghouse Electric Company as an engineer in the quality assurance department. Since leaving Westinghouse in 2006 he has been pursuing his graduate studies in the environmental systems analysis program at North Carolina State University (NCSU). Upon admittance to NCSU, he received a provost fellowship for his academic and research performance. In 2008 he received an honorable mention for an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship for his proposed research, and graduated with his master of science in civil engineering. Jim’s thesis was entitled A Life-Cycle Analysis of Alternatives for the Management of Waste Hot-Mix Asphalt, Commercial Food Waste, and Construction and Demolition Waste. He received his PhD from NCSU and his research interests mainly focused on the intersection of science, policy, and environmental decision making. His PhD research investigated the effects of climate change policy on solid waste management operations, costs, and environmental impacts.

Jim is now a Research Assistant Professor at North Carolina State University.

Research Publications:
Levis, J. W., Barlaz, M. A., Themelis, N. J., and Ulloa, P. “Assessment of the State of Food Waste Treatment in the United States and Canada” Accepted for publication in Waste Management 2010.

Levis, J. W., Barlaz, M. A., Tayebali, A., Ranjithan, R. S., “A Life-Cycle Assessment of Alternatives for the Management of Waste Hot Mix Asphalt” submitted for publication to Road Materials and Pavement Design 2010.

Levis, J. W., Barlaz, M. A., and Ranjithan, R. S., “A Life-Cycle Inventory of Alternatives for the Management of Commercial Food Waste”,  Proc. from the Global Waste Management Symposium, Copper Mountain, Colorado, September 2008.

B. Yang, J.W. Levis and Q. Lin, “A PDMS-Based Constant-Flowrate Micro Flow Regulator,” Proc. IEEE Int. Conf. Micro Electro Mechanical Systems (MEMS 2004), pp. 379-382, Maastricht, The Netherlands, 2004.