Industrial and regional ecology

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Industrial symbiosis

According to the ADEME definition:

"Industrial and territorial ecology (ITE), also called industrial symbiosis, is a mode of inter-company organization by exchanging flows or sharing needs". »

The symbiosis here refers to the exchange of flows of material, energy and information between two companies for their mutual benefit.

Although primarily targeting companies likely to use substantial flows of materials, industrial ecology initiatives are not limited only to those involved in industry. Service sector companies are also called upon to pool infrastructure or services. There is a substantial amount of experience feedback demonstrating the ability of regional cooperation between companies to create value by optimizing the use of resources. (See the NCIS and ChemParc initiatives)

Initiating ITE initiatives 

Industrial ecology is mainly organized around collective action implemented by the authorities, chambers of commerce or local business associations. Scaled to suit the business areas, industrial ecology projects improve the economic resilience of the region, attracting new businesses and generating many jobs. (Consulter the guide "Écologie industrielle et territoriale : le guide pour agir dans les territoires " (Industrial and territorial ecology: the guide for taking action locally))

 Competitiveness at stake

In addition to these collective initiatives, industrial ecology also provides a competitiveness challenge for companies. Identifying local alternative sourcing in your neighbours' co-products and waste helps to limit your costs and dependence on raw materials. Conversely, industrial ecology provides recycling outlets for your own waste and generates additional revenue. And pooling initiatives enable companies to limit their investments.

ITE challenges:

While the concepts involved in synergies are clear and simple, many obstacles and limitations need to be considered in order to implement them. Imperatives regarding organization, the governance of initiatives, adapting flows so as to integrate them into a new process, and regulatory obstacles due to the very nature of the goods exchanged (often waste) need to be lifted.

At the industrial level, the cross-sectoral nature of synergies can also pose semantic problems and lead to difficulties of understanding between those involved, since each sector of activity can give a flux a designation of its own.


Future developments:

A National Industrial Symbiosis Programme has been in progress since May 2015 in Aquitaine, Brittany, Haute-Normandie and Rhône-Alpes. This programme is intended to expand rapidly and aims to correct certain limits to the methodologies deployed in France until now regarding latency and excessive costs.

Defined and run by the Institut de l'économie circulaire (Institute of circular economy), it is supported by ADEME and the French Ministry of Ecology.