The benefits of industrial symbiosis are generally known and acknowledged by industrial players – these range from increased revenue from selling or exchanging waste streams with other companies, savings in energy and water, or entering new markets through the development of by-products. So why aren’t we seeing more industrial symbiosis practices spread across Europe?

SCALER partner EIT Climate-KIC joined experts in industrial ecology to discuss the potential of industrial symbiosis across the EU, and presented tools and methodologies available to accelerate the transition. The event was organised by the European Resource Efficiency Knowledge Centre (EREK), and took place within the 2019 World Circular Economy Forum in Helsinki.

“We are all here because we understand industrial symbiosis. We see the potential benefits, we see great case studies like Kalundborg, but now we want to know: does it truly have potential? Can we scale up industrial symbiosis in Europe? What will we achieve if we do?”, said Cliona Howie from EIT Climate-KIC

Making the switch to circular business models requires time and effort – but when companies look at the long-term profit and benefits, industrial symbiosis is clear path forward to make the switch to a circular economy at industrial level. This is even more true when we consider the emergent need to transition our systems to more sustainable practices, and changes in policy that are driving towards a stronger uptake of alternative, environmentally-friendly processes.

Learning from others

Some companies are already leading the change, becoming front-runners in the implementation of industrial symbiosis and able to share lessons learned and best practices. How can we learn from them? SCALER put together a detailed report on Best Practices for Industrial Symbiosis that provides concrete examples of projects on the ground, and demonstrates various incentives, challenges and successes.

Access to information and tools

There are already many existing tools and information on industrial symbiosis being developed by experts across the globe – but how can we create value from these and ensure they are being accessed by key industrial players? Stakeholder engagement plays a key role here, and the importance of connecting with existing networks, such as A.Spire for example, was also highlighted at the event. Dissemination and promotion of existing tools and initiatives can help scale up industrial symbiosis in Europe; SCALER will soon publish a report summarising existing resources to support the transition to circular economy practices at industrial level.

Awareness and storytelling

The event also highlighted the importance of storytelling on industrial symbiosis: to make the concept more concrete, we need to turn case studies into inspirational stories that can be shared. Hearing from companies’ direct experience is a lot more powerful to inspire other industries to take on the practice. It is also important to think about the language we use to engage with industrial players – and focus more on talking about risks, costs and profit.

To find our more about our research on industrial symbiosis, visit our reports page.