Forecasting the value of recyclable waste streams for a circular economy transition in Orlando, Florida

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The circular economy is a paradigm that views waste as a valuable resource, creating value for local economies through waste recycling and reuse. Despite the benefits of waste recovery, the national recycling rate has remained stagnant around 34% for the past decade in the U.S. This Master’s Project for Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment aimed to quantify the economic potential of improving recycling rates in the Orlando Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) through: (1) forecasting the value of recyclable municipal solid waste generated in Orlando MSA, and; (2) conducting a benefit-cost analysis (BCA) of building a material recovery facility (MRF) in Orlando. Forecasts and BCA were conducted by incorporating uncertainties from commodity price volatility. Results from the study suggested that values of single-stream recycling waste in Orlando MSA may reach $100 million in 2027, from $72 million in 2015. Cardboard and aluminum cans accounted for 70-90% of the waste stream’s value, while only accounting for 32% of the weight. The BCA revealed that building a MRF in Orlando MSA is expected to be profitable for the municipality. The cost for building the MRF was expected to be recovered as early as in the fourth year. Sensitivity analysis showed that an initial processing cost of $85 per ton, a $10 increase from the base model’s $75 per ton, made building a MRF expected to be unprofitable. The results from this study may not apply to other municipalities, since Orlando MSA already had a functioning collection infrastructure for recyclables. The study also raised questions regarding the optimal design of recycling programs.





Kanaoka, Koichi (2018). Forecasting the value of recyclable waste streams for a circular economy transition in Orlando, Florida. Master's project, Duke University. Retrieved from

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