Eco-Industrious: One person’s waste is another’s raw materials
The idea of eco-industrial parks, zones, or districts has been around for quite a while, at least from the 1990’s. Based on industrial ecology, with the idea of designing industrial systems to behave like an ecological system.
Industrial Ecology is “principally concerned with the flows of materials and energy through systems at different scales, from products to factories and up to national and global levels.”
Industrial Symbiosis “focuses on these flows through networks of businesses and other organizations in local and regional economies as a means of approaching ecologically sustainable industrial development.”
Prof Marion Chertow 2004
An Eco-Industrial Park “is a community of manufacturing and service businesses seeking enhanced environmental and economic performances through collaboration in managing environmental and resource issues including energy, water, materials …the community of businesses seeks a collective benefit that is greater that the sum of the individual benefits each company would realise if it optimized its individual performances.”
Lowe & Warren 1996
If Industrial Ecology is designed around optimising materials and energy flows, in Eco-Industrial Parks the flows of waste and energy are co-designed with a group or cluster of eco-industry businesses, working together to harness their optimum use, the industrial equivalent of an ecological system. At their most basic Eco-Industrial Parks involve exchanges between firms of their excess energy and materials. Waste from one firm becomes the raw material for another.
Four principles of Eco-Industrial Parks
- Industrial processes are linked systematically to reduce consumption of raw materials, water and energy.
- Industrial waste can become raw material for linked businesses.
- Businesses can be clustered in eco-industrial parks to reduce waste and transport costs while simplifying logistics
- Expertise can be applied on a case-by-case basis
There are various different ways in which Eco-Industrial Parks can be organised. Generally they comprise these three core elements:
- Recycling businesses
- Environmental technology companies
- Businesses based around a single environmental theme (i.e. solar energy)
“Co-location is a key to optimising the synergistic and symbiotic whole systems design!” Daniel Wahl
Types of Eco-Industrial Parks
There are different types of Eco-Industrial Parks but all share various aspects including:
- Co-location or proximity: A variety of companies which are clustered near to resource recovery and recycling facilities.
- Shared byproducts: Companies use waste energy and material from others as inputs in their own processes.
- Cleaner production: An emphasis on cleaner production throughout the production process.
Eco-Industrial Parks are also distinguished in the following ways:
- Eco-Industrial and Resource Recovery Parks
- Resource Recovery Park – A group of reuse, recycling, and composting processing, manufacturing, and retail businesses receiving and selling materials and products in one location.
- Zero-Emission Park – A group of co-located businesses working together to reduce or eliminate emissions and wastes.
- Virtual Eco-Park – A group of businesses that are geographically separate, but still working together to minimize their impact on the environment.
Eco-Industrial Parks Examples
Although the “first and canonical example” of an Eco-Industrial Park originated in Europe – Kalundborg on Denmark’s Western coast – as an approach Eco-Industrial Parks have been more popular in the USA, and also in recent years have begun being developed in China. For examples of Eco-Industrial Parks from different parts of the planet click here.