Price Response of Waste Resources Under Demand Shocks: Four Case Studies

Matthew Langholtz, Doug Ebersole, Richard Schroeder, Anelia Milbrandt

Research output: NRELTechnical Report


To quantify potential price changes of waste feedstocks that may be caused by increased demand, this study explored four case studies: 1) recyclable materials at local waste collection and recycling facilities in seven US states, 2) recyclable materials on internationally traded markets, 3) a wood-powered plant in Reading, PA, and 4) an MSW-powered plant in Tulsa, OK. The four case studies provided a total of ninety-one waste material price observations yielding twenty-seven price-supply relationships expressed as price elasticity of supply (PES) and unit price change with change in demand. For the two case studies related to recyclable materials with a global market shock, price changes vary widely from $0.08-$7.84 per ton with each percent change in demand. For the two case studies related to local market shocks in biomass used for energy, observed price changes range from $0.08-$0.23 per ton per percent change in demand. Based on these results, a base range of $0.10-$0.20 per ton per percent change in demand is recommended for local market shocks. I.e., for a facility that collects organic wastes on the order of 200,000-400,000 tons per year at price near zero, a doubling of demand could increase procurement prices by about $10.00-$20.00 per ton. Actual price changes with respect to change in demand may be non-linear. Shocks with broader geographic extent may increase price response due to a reduced opportunity for surrounding markets to mitigate localized market changes.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages25
StatePublished - 2022

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-6A20-83134

Other Report Number

  • ORNL/TM-2022/2356


  • biomass
  • demand shocks
  • price elasticity of supply
  • recycling
  • waste material prices


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