Dr. Harvey Alter, a resident of Frederick, MD and previously a longtime resident of Rockville, MD, was an environmental chemist internationally known for his work in solid and hazardous waste management. He died Saturday, June 27th in his home of pancreatic cancer. He was 87 years old. His work earned him nicknames from colleagues such as “The Sultan of Solid Waste” and “The Intellectual Guru of Garbage.” He combined a Ph.D. in chemistry to the science, technology and public policy of what most people discard—municipal and hazardous waste.
Born in Brooklyn, NY, Dr. Alter graduated from Queens College, CUNY and went on to receive M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Cincinnati. He began his career with the then Bakelite Company in Bound Brook, NJ and then rose from bench chemist to vice-president of a corporate research laboratory in several posts with Gillette.
Dr. Alter established his “garbage” career in environmental sciences with the former not-for-profit National Center for Resource Recovery. Later, he worked at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce where he managed environmental and natural resource public policy issues. For many years, Dr. Alter represented various industry groups before the UN Basel Convention on the Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal.
Dr. Alter was a member of the Cosmos Club of Washington, DC, a member of the Washington Academy of Science, past President of the Chemical Society of Washington, a Fellow of ASTM and recipient of their Award of Merit for his contributions to standards setting for recycling.
His death was preceded by that of his adored wife of 56 plus years, Cora, in 2013. Dr. Alter is survived by his daughters Juli Betts of Cary, North Carolina, and Lisa Winstel, of Clarksburg, MD, and her husband Jeff. He leaves behind his beloved grandchildren Blair and Zoey Betts and Madeline and Peter Winstel, his brother Burton and sister Phyllis White.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to honor Harvey’s memory be made to one of the following charities:
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