From providing the energy to heat tomatoes in greenhouses to supplying the raw materials to fuel power plants, the recycling involved in industrial symbiosis is changing the world occupied by heavy industries.
Going back in time, industries such as the chemical sector were notorious for their wastage with by-products spilling out into the atmosphere, the land and into the seas. It made for bad practice and bad public relations.
Although challenges do undoubtedly remain, the position is rapidly improving in many countries and industrial symbiosis is playing its part in changing things for the better.
The process, in which one company’s waste or by-product becomes the raw materials for another, is seen as beneficial for both environment and business because it can:
• Reduce raw material and waste disposal costs
• Divert waste from landfill and reduce carbon emissions
• Earn new revenue from residues and by-products
• Open up new business opportunities
According to those involved in the sector, industrial symbiosis can involve everything from waste chemicals and steam to plastic pellets and aggregates, all of which can be sold on other businesses, cutting the supplier‘s waste and often reducing the buyer‘s purchasing costs.
One of the countries championing the practice has been the UK and Birmingham will host a two-day event on industrial symbiosis in October.
The announcement was made by Birmingham City Council leader Sir Albert Bore at an event to celebrate the contribution to the practice of Birmingham-based International Synergies Limited.
Birmingham City Council was the first public authority to incorporate industrial symbiosis into its policies and commissioned International Synergies to investigate how the practice can attract investment.
The Birmingham event comes after leaders at the G7 Summit established an Alliance on Resource Efficiency to promote ways to deliver sustainable growth.
Sir Albert said: “I am delighted that the G7 has chosen Birmingham as the venue, the home of the industrial revolution and now of industrial symbiosis as the birthplace of the UK’s National Industrial Symbiosis Programme (NISP) more than ten years ago.”
NISP was the world’s first national industrial symbiosis programme and its ideas are replicated in many countries across Europe, Asia, North and South America and Africa.
Many of the businesses taking part, including in the chemical sector, have reaped financial and environmental benefits, saving money on buying resources, reducing disposal or transport costs, and increasing sales by turning resources that had previously little or no value into tradable commodities.
As a result, NISP was able to underline the value of the concept by pointing to a reduction in the UK’s carbon dioxide-equivalent emissions of 42 million tonnes and the redirection of more than 48 million tonnes of ‘wasted resources’ away from landfill and back into use.
NISP also showed that the practice contributed more than £3 billion to industry by cutting costs and creating new business opportunities and sales. It also secured more than 10,000 jobs and supported many new business start-ups.
Birmingham City Council will welcome Ministers, businesses and international institutions from around the world to explore the next steps on the 29th and 30th of October.
Peter Laybourn, Chief Executive of International Synergies said: “This is fantastic news for Birmingham and for International Synergies.
“The Alliance will run a series of workshops on proven and effective tools for advancing resource efficiency, with industrial symbiosis being marked out for its success, pioneered here in the West Midlands, for reducing reliance on virgin resources, cutting carbon emissions and supporting industry growth and creating jobs.”
“I am delighted that the G7 has chosen Birmingham as the venue, the home of the industrial revolution and now of industrial symbiosis as the birthplace of the UK’s National Industrial Symbiosis Programme (NISP) more than ten years ago.” – Sir Albert Bore, Birmingham City Council leader