What is industrial symbiosis?
In nature, symbiosis refers to an association between at least two different species, usually to the advantage of both of them.
Industrial symbiosis is an association between two or more industrial facilities or companies in which the wastes or byproducts of one become the raw materials for another.
As in the natural world, this type of industrial synergy brings advantages to both parties, and is usually done for both commercial and environmental reasons.
Industrial symbiosis involves a collective approach to competitive advantage through the physical exchange of materials, energy, water and/or byproducts, or the shared use of assets, logistics and expertise.
Tyre shred, plastic pellets or waste steam from a factory are examples of outputs that can be sold on to other businesses.
The companies involved may be close together or far apart, producing the same things or completely different ones, and the resources they share may consist of materials, energy or water.
Distance no barrier
It used to be thought that for industrial symbiosis to work effectively the companies involved had to be close together. This is no longer the case; although it may not be the best environmental option to transport low value/grade materials and heat over large distances, higher value synergies have no such restrictions.
What all synergies have in common is that they reduce costs and generate new sales for the companies involved, as well as creating significant environmental benefits such as reduced landfill and greenhouse gases. The economic activity generated also has further social benefits with the creation of new businesses and jobs.