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Industrial symbiosis

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Title: Industrial symbiosis  
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Subject: History of industrial ecology, Industrial ecology, Eco-industrial development, Resource management, Industrial metabolism
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Industrial symbiosis

Example of Industrial symbiosis: waste steam from a waste incinerator (right) is piped to an ethanol plant (left) where it is used as in input to their production process

Industrial symbiosis is the sharing of services, utility, and by-product resources among industries in order to add value, reduce costs and improve the environment.[1] Industrial symbiosis is a subset of industrial ecology, with a particular focus on material and energy exchange. Industrial ecology is a relatively new field that is based on a natural paradigm, claiming that an industrial ecosystem may behave in a similar way to the natural ecosystem wherein everything gets recycled.


Eco-industrial development is one of the ways in which industrial ecology contributes to the integration of economic growth and environmental protection. Some of the examples of eco-industrial development are:

Circular economy (single material and/or energy exchange)

Greenfield eco-industrial development (geographically confined space)

Brownfield eco-industrial development (geographically confined space)

Eco-industrial network (no strict requirement of geographical proximity)

Virtual eco-industrial network (networks spread in large areas e.g. regional network)

• Networked Eco-industrial System (macro level developments with links across regions)[2]

"This classification omits any industrial sector-wide approaches and appreciates the diversity of the industrial system which is a key feature of industrial symbiosis. It is aimed to include initiatives that focus on achieving utility sharing and symbiosis among diverse sectors of industry".[3][4] It is the diversity and the openness of industrial symbiosis that makes it a unique approach to eco-industrial development.

Industrial symbiosis engages traditionally separate industries in a collective approach to competitive advantage involving physical exchange of materials, energy, water, and/or by-products. The keys to industrial symbiosis are collaboration and the synergistic possibilities offered by geographic proximity”.[5] The sharing of information is even more critical with the emergence of virtual globes such as Google Earth. These tools can greatly simplify the geographical analysis involved in determining potential IS opportunities.[6]

Industrial symbiosis systems collectively optimize material and energy use at efficiencies beyond those achievable by any individual process alone. IS systems such as the web of materials and energy exchanges among companies in [7] however, the engineered design and implementation of such systems from a macro planner’s perspective, on a relatively short time scale, proves challenging. Nevertheless there are examples of industrial symbiosis being approached as national / regional initiatives with some significant success particularly in Europe.[8]

Often, access to information on available by-products is non-existent. These by-products are considered waste and typically not traded or listed on any type of exchange.


Recent work reviewed government policies necessary to construct a multi-gigaWatt photovoltaic factory and complementary policies to protect existing solar companies are outlined and the technical requirements for a symbiotic industrial system are explored to increase the manufacturing efficiency while improving the environmental impact of solar photovoltaic cells. The results of the analysis show that an eight-factory industrial symbiotic system can be viewed as a medium-term investment by any government, which will not only obtain direct financial return, but also an improved global environment.[9] This is because synergies have been identified for co-locating glass manufacturing and photovoltaic manufacturing.[10] The waste heat from glass manufacturing can be used in industrial-sized greenhouses for food production.[11] Even within the PV plant itself a secondary chemical recycling plant can reduce environmental impact while improving economic performance for the group of manufacturing facilities.[12]

See also


  1. ^ Agarwal, A. and Strachan, P. 2008. Is Industrial Symbiosis only a Concept for Developed Countries? The Journal for Waste & Resource Management Professionals, The Chartered Institution of Wastes Management; 42
  2. ^ Agarwal A. & Strachan P. 2006. Literature review on eco-industrial development initiatives around the world and the methods employed to evaluate their performance / effectiveness, Consultancy Report prepared for Databuild Ltd. and National Industrial Symbiosis Programme, 7th May 2006, Available from
  3. ^ Mr. Abhishek Agarwal and Dr. Peter Strachan (2006). "Literature review on eco-industrial development initiatives around the world and the methods employed to evaluate their performance / effectiveness". The Robert Gordon University. Retrieved 24 April 2014. 
  4. ^ Agarwal A. & Strachan P. 2006. Literature review on eco-industrial development initiatives around the world and the methods employed to evaluate their performance / effectiveness, Consultancy Report prepared for Databuild Ltd. and National Industrial Symbiosis Programme, 7th May 2006, Available from
  5. ^ Chertow, M. R. 2000. Industrial Symbiosis: Literature and Taxonomy, Annual Review of Energy and the Environment, 25: 313-337.
  6. ^ W. Doyle and J. M. Pearce, “Utilization of Virtual Globes for Open Source Industrial Symbiosis”, Open Environmental Sciences, 3, 88-96. [1]
  7. ^ Ehrenfeld, J. and Gertler, N. 1997. Industrial Ecology in Practice: The Evolution of Interdependence at Kalundborg, Journal of Industrial Ecology 1(1): 67.
  8. ^ Costa I., Massard G. and Agarwal A. 2010. Waste management policies for industrial symbiosis development: case studies in European countries, Journal of Cleaner Production 18: 815-822.
  9. ^ Pearce, J.M. 2008. “Industrial Symbiosis for Very Large Scale Photovoltaic Manufacturing”, Renewable Energy 33, pp. 1101–1108. [2]
  10. ^ A. H. Nosrat, J. Jeswiet, and J. M. Pearce, “Cleaner Production via Industrial Symbiosis in Glass and Large-Scale Solar Photovoltaic Manufacturing”, Science and Technology for Humanity (TIC-STH), 2009 IEEE Toronto International Conference, pp.967-970, 26-27 Sept. 2009. DOI
  11. ^ Rob Andrews and Joshua Pearce, “Environmental and Economic Assessment of a Greenhouse Waste Heat Exchange”, Journal of Cleaner Production 19, pp. 1446-1454 (2011). DOI.
  12. ^ M.A. Kreiger, D.R. Shonnard, J.M. Pearce, "Life Cycle Analysis of Silane Recycling in Amorphous Silicon-Based Solar Photovoltaic Manufacturing"Resources, Conservation & Recycling, 70, pp.44-49 (2013).DOI

External links

  • International Group of Industrial Symbiosis Researchers & Practitioners
  • Marian Chertow interview on Industrial Symbiosis (audio)
  • Western Cape Industrial Symbiosis Programme (WISP)
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