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Measuring the Sustainable Return on Investment (SROI) of Waste-to-Energy

[+] Author Affiliations
John F. Williams

HDR Engineering, Inc., New York, NY

John C. Parker

HDR Corporation, Toronto, ON, Canada

Paper No. NAWTEC18-3552, pp. 173-191; 19 pages
doi:10.1115/NAWTEC18-3552
From:
  • 18th Annual North American Waste-to-Energy Conference
  • 18th Annual North American Waste-to-Energy Conference
  • Orlando, Florida, USA, May 11–13, 2010
  • Conference Sponsors: Solid Waste Processing Division and Environmental Engineering Division
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-4393-2 | eISBN: 978-0-7918-3868-6
  • Copyright © 2010 by ASME

abstract

Waste to Energy facilities serve their communities in a number of important ways. Our industry does a terrific job reducing volumes that would have otherwise been destined for landfills. Energy recovery is an important and positive byproduct of that process but not the only one. Beyond these two obvious attributes you seldom hear of anything else. This is unfortunate because there are significant social, environmental, and economic benefits associated with the technology. Industry “silence” can be attributed to an inability to describe those benefits in ways people understand or see a dollar value in. In other words, we have a tough time measuring the value of “Green.” This paper describes a framework through which we can make the case for sustainable benefits associated with Waste to Energy. It begins with discussion of why it is important to seek a connection with the “triple bottom line” including the social, environmental, and economic attributes of a given program/project/facility. It sheds light on the need to think beyond traditional life cycle cost analysis techniques that focus on direct cash benefits. It describes a process through which noncash and external costs and benefits can be calculated and presented in monetary terms, referred to as the Sustainable Return on Investment or SROI (direct cash + noncash + external costs and benefits = SROI). This paper should help readers make an aggressive case to reveal the FULL VALUE of Waste to Energy across the sustainability triple bottom line.

Copyright © 2010 by ASME

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