|Regional Resource Recovery, and Eco-Industrial
An Integrated Strategy
Prepared for the Symposium,
Innovation durch regionale Recycling-Netzwerke
at Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz April 28-29, 1997
by Ernest A. Lowe,
Industrial Ecology R & D Center
Parks and Integrated Resource Recovery
Once we decide to eliminate the concept of waste, as industrial ecology proposes, we open a new vision of economic development. When companies see that they now pay to produce and discard an often amazing number of unmarketed products they start seeking the ways to either market them or stop producing them. When communities see that they pay high costs to gather and store the discards of households and commercial businesses in landfills, they seek opportunities for recycling and reusing this resource stream. In the 70s many small businesses sprang up to fill this resource recovery niche.
Many states in the U.S. have mandated "aggressive" solid waste reduction goals--30 to 50% reductions by 2010. However, the city of Canberra in Australia has taken all-out leadership by setting the goal of zero waste by 2010 (Australian Capital Territory 1996). While the Second Law of Thermodynamics still holds in Australia, a zero waste goal challenges business people, householders, and government planners to abandon the assumption that high levels of wasting is acceptable .
In Canberra and around the world this redefinition is opening cost saving and revenue generating opportunities for businesses. Businesses that operate more efficiently are stronger financially and more likely to stay in business. Defining waste out of existence is creating economic development opportunities for communities and entrepreneurs. More efficient and less polluting use of resources benefits the environment while it improves the economy.
In this paper we explore the potential value of seeing management of streams of resources from all sources, not just industry, as a single, complex, self-organizing system. We propose that eco-industrial parks, with resource recovery facilities as their hub or anchor, can become an organizing force for this integrative strategy.
Another, earlier article that this one builds upon is Lowe, Ernest A. 1997. "Creating By-Product Resource Exchanges for Eco-Industrial Parks, Journal of Cleaner Production, Volume 4, Number 4, an industrial ecology special issue, Elsevier, Oxford.
Eco-Industrial Parks (EIP)
Indigo Development, working in collaboration with Urban Ore, a Berkeley resource recovery company, has evolved a specific type of EIP design in which the park is anchored by a diverse cluster of resource recovery firms.
Four charts model
how this resource
park can serve industry, commerce, government, households, and
agriculture in regaining the value of what we now call waste.
In the Appendix, Proposed Recruitment Targets we list the types of companies for an EIP we have proposed in California.
The Resource Recovery Industry
The resource recovery industry includes reuse, recycling, remanufacturing and composting, as well as the marketing and end-use of reclaimed discarded materials. As a vertical industry it involves a wide range of business activities including collection, sorting, and processing of industrial and biological materials; repair, refurbishing, or dismantling of equipment; and wholesale or retail sales. The unifying concept is that discarded materials, goods, and by-products are turned into salable materials and products.
Businesses and communities benefit through a reduction in disposal costs, creating new revenues, and by opening new sources of materials and goods. The environment benefits from reduction in demands on limited natural, virgin resources and on the capacity of the environment to accommodate solid waste and pollution.
The resource recovery anchor for the eco-park would include new, expanding, or relocating companies directly involved in gathering discarded materials and goods, upgrading them, and moving them to market. Re-refiners and reprocessors of oil and chemical products could have direct connections with major manufacturers in the areas. Firms gathering and processing agricultural, food processing, and restaurant by-products into marketable materials or products would be another important target. (Their customers include composting, animal feed production, fish farms, and ethanol production.) Defining the preferred mix of companies will be guided by the community metabolism study described below.
An investment recovery company could be a valuable coordinator of the logistics of materials acquisition, movement, and recycling/reuse by the diverse network of companies involved. It could also manage the resource recovery facility that serves as the entry point for discard resources in the EIP. (See the Appendix for information on investment recovery.)
Other Companies in the Eco-Park
The major streams of materials and goods coming through resource recovery companies (and direct connections with other industrial sources in the region) would define the initial set of companies to recruit or develop for the EIP. These would include: manufacturers using recycled feedstocks; remanufacturers of capital or consumer equipment; companies with major supply requirements that could be filled by the outputs of other tenants or plants in the area; users of reclaimed materials and energy by-products or agriculture and aquaculture firms if there is by-product energy or water available to the site.
Another group of prospective tenants would be those with a broader environmental mission, including: manufacturers of renewable energy and energy efficiency equipment; companies pioneering the use of bio-materials; firms providing services and products for sustainable agriculture industry; and industrial ecology and other environmental consultants.
Finally, the EIP would provide a socio-economic infrastructure to support new and expanding firms. This will include a business incubator, an entrepreneurial support network, coordination of access to financing for tenant companies, education and training, and support in handling regulatory and permitting issues.
What Type of Location and Facilities are Required?
This EIP should have excellent transportation access for moving materials in and out (rail, highway, and local). Proximity to industrial users or suppliers of discarded materials, water, or energy would be important. It should also be accessible to individuals and small businesses wishing to buy or sell/discard goods. The optimum size would be between 100 and 200 acres, although the property could be two or three non-contiguous parcels relatively near to each other. Contamination levels from previous use should be low enough to allow cleanup and clearance of liability in a timely fashion, with the previous owner covering costs.
Site design must optimize logistics for two functions: 1) easy access for industrial or individual drop-off of materials and product discards, for customers, and for niche collection companies; 2) easy management of materials and product flows between the reception point and user companies. Landscaping of an eco-industrial park can include natural ponds for treatment of storm water run-off and lightly contaminated process water from tenants. It should reflect and contribute to the ecology of the region.
What Benefits Would this Development Offer?
An eco-industrial park offers a combination of economic development and environmental benefits. The resource recovery foundation for an EIP increases the local economic value of these returns, which include:
The Integration of Discard Resource Management
One or more eco-industrial parks as outlined here could serve as agents to integrate planning and management of the total stream of resources that we now call waste. Essential elements and issues in this process of integration include:1. Over time, integrate management of industrial, commercial, civic, residential, and agricultural discard streams.
2. Create the process and institutional structures needed to coordinate this diverse, self-organizing set of activities.
3. Identify which elements of this stream are already reused and recycled. Determine the level of value of recovery and the companies or agencies responsible.
4. Identify the "service voids", the resources no one is now utilizing and the technologies and business models needed to put them to work.
5. Be aware of any environmental or health hazards that may be opened by using some present discards. (With special awareness of emerging research.)
6. Identify any institutional, business, or household values that support continued wasting.
1. Integrate industrial, commercial, civic, residential and agricultural discard streams.
Industrial ecology and the concept of industrial symbiosis or recycling networks have tended to focus on the conditions necessary to optimize business to business by-product exchanges. In our work we have suggested that one of these conditions is creating a resilient system of resource recovery also including household, municipal, and commercial streams of discards. We now add agricultural discards to complete the mix.
This holistic view develops the scale of activity required to accumulate many materials in economically usable quantities and it supports recognition of business opportunities for entrepreneurs. In some cases these will be special niche collection and processing firms, such as food waste collection and recycling or used oil and solvent re-refining.
Industrial plants with large volumes of energy or materials by-products available will usually seek one or a few major customers to reduce transaction costs (including possible physical infrastructure). However, such firms will also benefit from a diverse resource recovery economy, able to provide backup and to utilize smaller by-product streams.
The "management" of this integrating process is really development of self-organizing processes. While the ultimate outcome will be a complex system, getting there will not be through a large, top-down planning process. The basic question initially is what are the set of conditions required for this complex system to evolve out of market forces and the self-interests of the participants?
We suggest these
The World Wide Web and the Internet are notable technical resources for self-organization, already playing a vital role in sustainable community processes. While cyberspace should not replace face to face discussion, it enables businesses, agencies, researchers, and environmentalists to master the complex variety of information involved in the transformation to a closed-loop economy. All stakeholders can share channels of local and international communication and access to technical, business, organizational, and governmental aspects of integrated resource recovery and eco-industrial parks. Some areas of information can be closed to local access only, if required.
(See Holland 1996 for an excellent introduction to complex adaptive systems.)
A study of the metabolism of a community tracks all major flows of energy and materials, identifying the resource recovery agents already active and assessing the level of value of recycling or reuse. "Waste characterization studies" may be available as a source on materials flows, although data may be aggregated at too gross a level to yield all needed information. Company and household surveys may be needed to get more precision on materials, and to gather data on possible energy by-products (usually taken for granted in industry and commerce as an inevitable waste). University students and school children could be recruited for the household surveys.
Urban Ore, a Berkeley reuse company, surveyed resource recovery companies in this California town and discovered a much higher number than anyone expected. These businesses tended to gather in geographic clusters such as resellers of used or surplus building materials and components (one of Urban Ore’s major niches). In many cases the existing agents of resource recovery will be a mix of for-profit, not-for-profit and public organizations. An inventory and map of such companies is an important base for planning to eliminate waste.
Surveying the community’s metabolism should also seek to understand the relative value of recycling and reuse that the different firms achieve. For instance, orange peels from juice companies are usually recycled as cattle feed or compost. Odwalla Juice in California searched for higher value alternatives and found at least seven nutritional elements available from processing, including vitamin C, bioflavanoids, and rutin. With organic oranges as its input, the firm could incorporate processes to capture these higher values.
A resource recovery system should continually be seeking higher value functions which the materials it processes can serve.
(See Lowe, 1997 and Lowe, Moran, & Holmes 1997 for more detail on the processes for community metabolism surveys.)
The community metabolism study will highlight service voids -- categories of discards where major resources are now without markets and are treated as waste. The study team needs to prioritize them by both quantity and potential reuse value. Urban Ore uses a set of categories for discards based upon actual reuse markets. The twelve master categories are:
Urban Ore's Twelve Master Categories of Discards
Service voids in any of these categories (or their subcategories) may indicate business development opportunities. Sometimes an existing business may be able to expand to recover a particular material or class of materials. An asphalt company, for instance, might profitably expand to handle concrete and asphalt construction and demolition debris, providing it with a recycled feedstock. With some materials, research will be necessary to find technologies ready for commercial application or firms that have demonstrated proprietary technologies which may be available for licensing.
Filling service voids effectively requires exploration of different technical and business options to find the ones that provide the highest value reuse that is economically feasible. This is particularly important given the variety of business transactions that will be involved. These include:
A regional initiative to achieve a high level of resource recovery must balance two environmental issues: recovery of materials and energy resources and human and ecosystem health. Many materials in the resource stream are toxic. Some are radioactive. Most plastics are quite limited in their recyclability and may present new levels of risks in light of emerging research.
Assessing health and environmental risks is an increasingly complex question thanks to research in two areas: endocrine disrupters and synergistic interactions among chemicals. Continued awareness of the results of work on these topics should be a fundamental part of the process of searching for new uses for the economy's discards.
Conventional toxicology assesses risks on a chemical by chemical basis, using a linear model called the dose-response curve. The assumption is that there is a threshold level at which exposure is non-toxic. Risk assessment (primarily of human health risks) has been done on only a fraction of the tens of thousands of substances used in our industrial economy. Reseachers have done relatively little evaluation of risks to wildlife and ecosystems.
Our Common Future in 1996 (Colburn et al 1996) summarized research suggesting that a variety of commonly used chemicals may be interfering with the normal functioning of human and animal endocrine systems. The hypothesis explored in this research is that these substances may be increasing the rates of selected cancers, and causing reproductive system abnormalities, learning and behavioral problems, and immune system deficiencies. With some chemicals, persistance and accumulation in the environment and in human and wildlife tissues further increases the risk factor. These substances also show, in some cases, a non-linear dose response, making prediction of risk even more difficult.
The list of suspected agents is long, including heavy metals, pesticides such as DDT and lindane (both still in use in many countries), PCBs, emissions from burning or heating of plastics, and many compounds used in industrial and household products or generated through waste treatment, especially incineration. The possible impacts of such substances on endocrine functions may be augmented by the action of naturally occurring plant and animal hormones.
The complexity of risk assessment becomes even higher when we consider synergistic interactions among substances. We know from medicine that even some individually healing substances can become deadly or highly damaging when prescribed in combination. Recent research indicates that exposure to combinations of toxics at individually"safe" levels may be highly hazardous. Since many substances are stored in fatty tissues the exposure need not be at the same time. The broader issue of synergism includes possible interactions among chemical pollutants, radiation exposure, impaired immune response systems, genetic susceptibility, drug resistant bacterial strains, and emerging disease agents.
University teams supporting development of regional resource recovery systems need to stay abreast of this area of research and continue to evolve their assessment of potential risks from materials being recycled and reused.
For centuries our economy has evolved as a linear system building value by moving materials from field or mine through production and consumption and into the landfill or the environment as waste and pollution. In the last decades we have been inching away from this wasting economy and starting to develop patterns for a closed-loop economy. However, the wasting mentality has been institutionalized in companies and agencies and still endures in many families.
In the U.S. and many other countries waste management companies invest very heavily in the technologies for wasting: the collection packer trucks, expensive railroad packer boxes, and huge landfills. When they attempted recycling in the 1980s, they tended to choose capital intensive, high tech approaches, and, strangely enough, were unsuccessful in this business. They have recently been funding cost/benefit studies demonstrating that recycling is not economically feasible.
On the government side, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency created the business niche for wasting through its regulations determining the design of "safe" landfills and its definition of waste. At state and local levels solid waste agencies are usually the ones that issue contracts and permits to waste haulers, derive major revenues from a share of disposal fees, and at the same time support development of the resource recovery industry. Is there a conflict of interest and values here?
This conflict calls for development of transition strategies that enable businesses and agencies now aligned with continued large flows of waste to redesign their mission and values and to create a new raison d'etre. Without that, they will have only a small role to play in a closed-loop economy.
This paper takes a step beyond our earlier work on eco-industrial parks (Lowe, Moran, & Holmes 1997 and Lowe 1997). Heretofore we have primarily looked at EIPs, with a sidelong glance at the community systems of resource exchange that could make the parks more effective. As the result of collaboration with Urban Ore, one of the world's premier teams on design of resource recovery systems, we are now able to describe more fully the way in which the EIP can be a catalyst for efficient recovery of resources in all sectors of the community and its region.
This integrated approach promises to lower demand on material and energy resources significantly. It can enable the gathering of economically useful stockpiles of materials which otherwise would be too small for any firm to bother with. It offers a wide variety of opportunities for business expansion or creation, with many jobs at entry and skilled levels. Given the intertwined environmental and economic benefits of this approach, it opens a path to renewal of communities in industrialized countries as well as developing ones.
Since integration of management of all discard streams is a complex process, we recommend a market-driven, self-organizing, and adaptive strategy. Each major sector will take internal initiatives and identify support needed from others. Household resource recovery is already at a fairly high level in Styria. The manufacturing sector has spontaneously developed an inter-company exchange recycling network but still treats many unmarketed by-products as wastes.
One or more resource recovery eco-industrial parks in the region could be the foundation for firms collecting, processing, and marketing materials from all sectors, recovering those materials not easily accomodated by plant to plant trade. Such EIP(s) would be home for profitable new manufacturing and service firms dedicated to sustainability.
The "we" used in this
paper is not the royal
"we" but rather, a reflection of the teamwork over time that has built
the ideas I express here. My Indigo Development partner, Stephen Moran,
has been a central contributor of ideas and inspiration since 1993.
More recently Dan Knapp and MaryLou Van Deventer (and other members of
their resource recovery design team at Urban Ore) have helped me
understand the market dynamics, sociology, and logistics of recovering
all of our economy's discards. They've also taught me to finally use
the word "waste" only for things that are genuinely worthless! My wife,
Grace, and our daughter, Martha, are critics, editors, and researchers,
helping me to get my ideas together and my communication clear. EL
Australian Capital Territory, Canberra. 1996. No Waste by 2010. Publications and Public Communication for ACT Waste.
Ayres, Robert. 1996. "Creating industrial ecosystems: a viable management strategy?" International Journal of Technology Management, Vol. 12, Nos 5/6, Special Issue.
Ayres, Robert U. and Ayres, Leslie. 1996. Industrial Ecology : Towards Closing the Materials Cycle. Edward Elgar Publishers, London.
Colburn, Theo, Dumanoski, Dianne, and Myers, John Peterson. 1996. Our Stolen Future. Plume/Penguin Books. NY, London. A survey of research on endocrine disrupters.
R.P. Côté, et al. Designing and Operating Industrial Parks as Ecosystems. School for Resource and Environmental Studies, Faculty of Management, Dalhousie University. Halifax, Nova Scotia B3J 1B9. 1994.
Engberg, Holger. 1995. "The Industrial Symbiosis at Kalundborg", in Gladwin, Thomas, Freeman, Tara, Ed. 1995. Business, Nature and Society: Towards Sustainable Enterprise, Richard D. Irwin, Burr Ridge IL 1995.
Holland, John. 1996. Hidden Order: Adaptation through Complexity. Helix Books, Addison-Wesley. NY. A very lucid general review of complex adaptive systems theory. This is a basic foundation for developing self-organizing systems, such as we recommend in this paper..
David Kirkpatrick, Allan Rosen and Michael Shore. June 1995. The North Carolina Recycling Business Study: Employment, Capital Demands, and Technical Assistance Needs
Lowe, Ernest A., Moran, Stephen R., and Holmes, Douglas B. 1997. Eco-Industrial Parks: a handbook for local development teams. Indigo Development. This is essentially the same text as the Fieldbook for the Development of Eco-Industrial Parks drafted by the same authors for US-EPA. It has been updated and arranged in a sequence designed for local EIP development teams. Available from Indigo Development.
This report includes guidelines on: initiating EIP projects and integrating them into broader economic development initiatives in communities; setting environmental performance objectives; planning, financing, and recruitment strategies; designing management systems; and a survey of options for design of infrastructure, buildings, and support services.
Lowe, Ernest A. 1997. "Creating By-Product Resource Exchanges for Eco-Industrial Parks, Journal of Cleaner Production, Volume 4, Number 4, an industrial ecology special issue, Elsevier, Oxford.
Lowe, Ernest A., Warren, John L., Moran, Stephen R. 1997. Discovering Industrial Ecology: an executive briefing and sourcebook. Battelle Press. Cleveland OH.
Martin, Sheila et al. 1995. Developing an Eco-Industrial Park: Supporting Research, Volume 1, Final Report, Research Triangle Institute Project Number 6050, Research Triangle Park, NC. To order write RTI Information Services, POB 12194, Research Triangle Park, NC 27709. Includes a case study on by-product exchange network and papers on technical and regulatory requirements for EIPs.
Nemerow, Nelson L. 1995. Zero Pollution for Industry, Waste Minimization Through Industrial Complexes. John Wiley & Sons, NY.
President's Council on Sustainable Development. 1996. Eco-Efficiency Task Force Report. Includes detailed reports on the PCSD's four EIP demonstration sites: Baltimore MD, Brownsville, TX, Cape Charles VA, and Chattanooga TN. Available from PCSD (in US) 800-363-3732, 202-408-5296 or on the web at www.whitehouse.gov/PCSD
President's Council on Sustainable Development. 1997. Eco-Industrial Park Workshop Proceedings. From conference in Cape Charles, Virginia October 17-18, 1996. Washington DC.
Schwarz, Erich J. 1996. "Recycling-Networks: A Building Block Towards a Sustainable Development," International Solid Waste Association, 1996 International Congress Proceedings.
Schwarz, Erich J. & Steininger, Karl W. 1997. "Implementing nature's lesson: the industrial recycling network enhancing regional development", Journal of Cleaner Production, Volume 4, Number 4, an industrial ecology special issue, Elsevier, Oxford.
Wallner, H.P. 1997. "Regional Embeddedness of Industrial Parks--Strategies for Sustainable Production Systems at the Regional Level," Journal of Cleaner Production, Volume 4, Number 4, an industrial ecology special issue, Elsevier, Oxford.
The following are general categories for recruitment/development initially proposed in the eco-park proposed by Indigo Development and Urban Ore in Northern California.
Resource recovery (the anchor for the development)
A commons with meeting space, dining hall, and day-care;
A new field of management, investment recovery, takes a systemic approach to ending waste. This is an integrated business process that identifies-for redeployment, recycling or remarketing-non-productive assets generated in the normal course of business. These assets include:
An investment recovery firm could integrate the above functions into a comprehensive strategy for an EIP, for an industrial area, or for a whole community. If the firm's fees are based on a retainer plus percent of savings and/or revenues it would have an incentive for supporting this holistic approach.
An IR firm could also negotiate technical assistance from universities, national research labs, and environmental pollution prevention and energy efficiency programs. With client companies it would target unmarketed products that need this research input in order to be marketable. It could also recruit the right providers. The firm could take on the role of negotiating with regulatory agencies to define conditions for reuse of materials presently restricted.
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