Material and money flows as a means for industry analysis of recycling schemes

In most industrialized countries the recycling of waste materials has increased considerably over the last few decades; however, through a focus on how to increase the amount of recycled waste, the economic nature of recycling has sometimes been neglected. This paper proposes an integrative industry analysis for recycling schemes based on material and money flows. The latter analysis facilitates integrating economic characteristics into considerations with respect to recycling schemes in order to obtain a more comprehensive understanding of their current status as well as their historical developments. Thereby, the analysis departs from the perspective of the entire recycling industry or branch. Such meso-economic considerations can support, on the one hand, regional authorities in deciding how a recycling scheme should be handled in order to approach the overall goal of sustainable regional waste management and, on the other hand, the respective recycling industry to develop effective improvement strategies in order to succeed in the increasingly competitive regional waste markets. The proposed approach is utilized in a case study for centralized separate bio-waste transformation in Canton Zurich, Switzerland, to show its feasibility as well as its potentials and shortcomings. In the case study two quasi-stationary material and money flow analyses were calculated, and the profitability and competitiveness of the recycling industry were analyzed. Additionally, major consumers’ requirements with regard to the solid transformation products were investigated in a questionnaire survey (N = 102). The case study shows that the proposed methodological approach is appropriate for integrating economic considerations into a comprehensive analysis of a recycling industry and for deriving potential improvement strategies for this industry. For achieving robust decisions for regional material flow management, the approach contributes in three highly relevant ways: (i) it integrates different system perspectives (e.g., material flows, consumer requirements, and money flows), (ii) it examines waste management comprehensively (e.g., inclusion of different waste management options), and (iii) it is transparent for the responsible decision makers and the affected stakeholders.

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Resources, Conservation and Recycling, 49, 2, 159-190

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 Record created 2017-03-12, last modified 2018-03-17

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