Recycling Plastic in the US Virgin Islands: A Feasibility Analysis and Proposal
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Abstract: Located in the pristine Caribbean Sea, the United States Virgin Islands bring in more than two million visitors a year that exacerbate the already pressing problem of waste management for the nearly 108,000 inhabitants of St. Thomas, St. Croix, and St. John. Reduce, reuse, and recycle would presumably be the priority in any island region, yet the USVI have historically viewed recycling plastic as infeasible due to high transportation costs and distance to economies of scale with processing facilities. As a petroleum byproduct, plastic is the 2nd most valued commodity in the waste stream and makes up 14% of the US Virgin Islands MSW. With the USVI facing landfill closure within the next five years, waste management is a true concern with expanding the recycling to include plastic proving to be a viable solution. After analyzing different scenarios and taking all of the unique characteristics of the USVI into consideration, I have proposed a business model for a closed loop plastic recycling operation in the US Virgin Islands in order to decrease transport costs and environmental impacts. A closed-loop process would prove to be a viable investment using locally sourced PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate, #1) to produce high-quality plastic flake to substitute virgin plastic in manufacturing, such as in the bottling industry, and plastic strapping which is in high demand for the packaging and shipping industry. The reprocessing plant would be strategically located in the industrial sector of St. Croix with access to a highly trafficked import, export, and trans-shipment port. The proximity to manufacturers in need of plastics would be pursued for product contracts in order to secure a profitable demand schedule. This Master’s Project offers background on plastics, recycling, and the US Virgin Islands in order to understand the unique characteristics in developing this proposal. The proposal details, business model, and sensitivity analysis will be discussed before offering conclusions and steps to move the project forward.
DepartmentNicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences
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