Industrial ecology is one way to achieve a closed loop system and better maximize natural resources. The premise of industrial ecology is that one industry’s waste becomes another industry’s feedstock. Its design is predicated on ecological systems where one organism’s wastes become nutrients for another organism. Industrial ecology promotes material efficiency, life cycle thinking, and reduction of raw materials.
Where industrial ecology falls short is promoting the use of clean, safe materials. Many eco-industrial parks have been established whereby toxic materials are continuously exchanged amongst the participating industries. Once industries have set up a closed loop system, whereby they are reliant on each other, there is little incentive to use cleaner, safer materials that might not work within the current design of the system. The use of nontoxic materials needs to be prioritized when the eco-industrial park is established, so industries can help each other become more sustainable.
Industrial ecology at work………….
An industrial park in the town of Kalundbork, 80 miles west of Copenhagen in Denmark, was the first example of industrial ecology. The industrial park involves the cooperation of an electric power generating plant, an oil refinery, a biotechnology production plant, a plasterboard factory, a sulfuric acid producer, cement producers, local agriculture and horticulture, and district heating. The power station supplies the power to the pharmaceutical plant, refinery and district heating system. Gyproc, the wallboard producer, buys surplus gas from the refinery along with industrial gypsum, a byproduct of desulfurization process that makes the gas cleaner. In addition, fly ash from the power plant is used for cement-making and road building. The power plant also uses surplus heat for warming its own seawater fish farm. Sludge from the fish farm is used as fertilizer by local farmers.