photo of an industrial ecosystem

YSE Partners with World Bank on Identifying Industrial Symbiosis Opportunities

A new global platform, based on YSE’s research through the Center for Industrial Ecology, will help promote opportunities for reuse of waste material and other resources.

In an effort to facilitate the use of one company’s waste for another’s reuse — a process known as industrial symbiosis — the World Bank is launching a global platform next month in partnership with the Yale School of the Environment’s Center for Industrial Ecology that will provide public access to information about exchange opportunities.

“The idea is to try to avoid waste by maximizing the number of possible exchanges among the companies. I hope it goes viral,” says Marian Chertow, associate professor of industrial environmental management and director of the Center for Industrial Ecology who signed the MOU.

The idea is to try to avoid waste by maximizing the number of possible exchanges among the companies.

Marian ChertowDirector of the Center for Industrial Ecology

In a memorandum of understanding, the Center agreed to partner with the World Bank to continue to study the economics of industrial clusters and new technologies that can foster industrial symbiosis opportunities in Eco-Industrial Parks (EIP), particularly in developing countries. The partnership will also be organizing training seminars and collaborating on the development of the global platform.

“The World Bank will use success cases to help convince other companies to come on board. Once people see other people doing it, then they say, ‘Oh, I could do that,’” Chertow says.

Chertow’s groundbreaking work on industrial symbiosis has made her a central player in the field. She has forged relationships with researchers and business leaders worldwide and has written seminal papers on how symbiotic systems can save substantial quantities of resources while creating jobs and reducing waste.

flow chart of the industrial ecosystem of Kalundborg, Denmark.
The industrial ecosystem of Kalundborg, Denmark.

She saw firsthand how exchanges of waste, energy, water, and materials between businesses could reduce costs and aid the environment while on a trip to Denmark in 1998 where a cluster of businesses in the city of Kalundborg was extensively reusing waste materials. At the time, the Kalundborg industrial ecosystem, which continues to grow and expand to this day, included a power station, oil refinery, pharmaceutical company, and wall-board plant. Among the exchanges were sludge and yeast slurry from the pharmaceutical company, Novo Nordisk, which is being used as soil enhancers; an oil refinery using steam from a power station and a municipality also using the steam for heat; and fly ash from the power station being used by the cement industry. Several of the companies pooled water into a basin for reuse instead of draining the nearby lake saving 60% of water consumption at the power plant. alone. Other symbiosis reclaimed 170,000 tons of gypsum and 50,000-70,000 tons of fly ash per year.

These industrial exchanges are now happening all over the globe, including in China, India, Japan, Italy, South Korea, Colombia, and South Africa.  Developing countries tend to have numerous industrial symbiosis clusters because reusing materials is less expensive than having to buy new ones, says Chertow.

Koichi Kanaoka, a PhD student at YSE, has been working with Chertow and a team of students to identify clusters of companies that have found ways to utilize each other’s byproducts to incorporate into the platform the World Bank is launching in December.

Workers disassembling eltrical equipment
Centers & Programs

Center for Industrial Ecology (CIE)

Leading the way in an emerging field, the Center for Industrial Ecology focuses research, teaching, and outreach on how resources are converted to products, the pollution that comes from these processes, and opportunities to reduce resource use and pollution.

Last spring, Diego Angel Hakim ’21 MEM and ERP fellow Maximilian Schubert, examined business clusters in Africa and developed methods to quantify how much waste could be reused by neighboring businesses while also evaluating environmental impacts.

For his dissertation, Kanaoka is also researching industrial clusters in the U.S. that have been carrying out industrial symbiosis “under the radar” simply because the exchanges make economic and environmental sense, he says. He has found sites at industrial parks in Maryland, New York, and Indiana.

Chertow believes there are more clusters of industrial symbiosis happening that haven’t been found yet.

“My tagline is that they are everywhere,’’ she says. “It just takes a different way of looking at things to find them.”

The World Bank platform will list the clusters Kanaoka, Chertow, and the team have identified to help grow investment in industrial symbiosis. The data will include information on renewable technologies the companies are using, waste management strategies, and environmental performance.

The World Bank has put a focus on green investment, requiring that 35% of every dollar of financing the bank provides must go toward something that has a green impact, and Dario Quaranta, senior expert for finance, competitiveness and innovation global practice for The World Bank, says the bank has been working to remove barriers to industrial symbiosis opportunities. Quaranta invited Chertow to a conference on the issue in 2020 and learned more about her work with Kanaoka on identifying clusters. The partnership on the platform grew from there.

“I have worked with multiple companies to get done what these Yale students have done in just two months on this specific project. It’s fantastic,’’ Quaranta says. “This collaboration will open up a lot of other opportunities.’’

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