Industrial Symbiosis, the Circular Economy and Carbon Reduction: An Introduction to Process and Methodologies

Last June 5 to 10, 2014, Psychology Volunteers on Bikes External Relations Officer Monica Manluluyo attended the 2014 International Student Conference on Environment and Sustainability. The 6-day conference was held in Tongji University, Shanghai, China where experts on environment, energy, urban development and economy discussed regional and global ecological civilization and green development in the new age together with participants around the world.

Mr. James Woodcock is the International Programme Manager at International Synergies, U.K. He introduced Industrial Symbiosis, the Circular Economy and Carbon Reduction during the 2014 International Student Conference on Environment and Sustainability: Symposium on Energy Transition and Climate Change held last June 5, 2014 at Tongji University, Shanghai, China.


The National Industrial Symbiosis Programme is the world’s first national programme with/for business-led advisory groups. The benefits of a national model are substantial and include reduced costs, increased revenues, and reduced waste to landfill; job safeguarding and creation; reduced virgin material and water use CO2 emissions; and increased innovation.

Industrial Symbiosis is about getting two (or more) companies together and get them to work with each other from a linear to a circular system. It changes the perception of industries and enhances environmental and business benefits and opportunities. The model of delivery is simple: in business opportunity workshops, there is an exchange of information between businesses; tried and tested interactive business opportunity models; and the interaction of 50 to 60 organizations in one room to generate more than 300 potential ideas.

Since 2007, International Synergies (IS) has been working with China to implement circular economy and reduce carbon emissions. The initial training consisted of an introduction to industrial symbiosis, workshop facilitation and follow up, programme management, synergy management and reporting. It was followed by the provision of a Synergy software, and IS continues to give support.

Different countries around the world have used the techniques of Industrial Symbiosis. It assists the development of a circular economy, decreases carbon throughout the production chain, help companies to transform their businesses through new business opportunities and increases R&D and innovation. Below are sample case studies:

  1. Terra Nitrogen and John Baarda
  • Terra Nitrogen: Industry produces derivatives of nitrogen and methanol

o    Waste 12500 tonnes of CO2 released to atmosphere, hot steam and ammonia

  • John Baarda: Tomato producer
  • Partnership:

o    Elimination of CO2 emissions through construction of a greenhouse capable of producing 300000 tomatoes per year

o    Investment of 15M euros

o    Creation of 65 new jobs

o    Recovery of heat from steam

  1. Ricoh Disseminates best practice through NISP

o    Adopts variable speed drive system and 5000 euros investment brings ROI less than 8 months

o    Carbon reduction 50 tpa

o    Best practice disseminated at NISP event to

  • 70 IK companies including many SMEs
  • Belgian company, visitors hosted by ISL

o    Technology adopted by GKN with 25000 euros savings and major carbon reduction

  1. Toyota

o    Adopts energy efficient LED lights in facility

  • 16% reduction in electricity

o    Best practice disseminated to

  • 40 UK companies including Tesco, Next, Royal Mail and many SMEs
  • Turkish UN Cleaner Production Centre hosted by ISL

  1. Eco-innovation in business models

o    From dirty industry to clean energy company

  • Animal renderer: Boils animals and turns them to glue

o    Initial NISP engagement: by-products diverted from landfill to cement industry

o    Second stage: improve efficiency of processes

o    Third stage: move into bio-fuels

o    Fourth stage: anaerobic digestion and grid connection

o    Result: new vision as energy company

  1. China Project Results: Sludge reutilization

o    Challenge

  • Sludge cannot be dumped in landfills anymore

o    What they did

  • Splitting the sludge
  • Aerate it etc
  • Result: foam concrete
  • Roof insulation, thermal insulator