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Opportunities and Challenges of Industrial Symbiosis fact sheet cover

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Opportunities and Challenges of Industrial Symbiosis

Kwinana Industries Council

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The Goal

To concurrently attain economic and environmental benefits through collaboration between industrial enterprises which are located in proximity of each other.

The Challenge

In pursuing sustainable development, countries frequently face challenges in balancing competing economic and environmental priorities, and even competing environmental goals. It is therefore important to pursue actions which concurrently deliver economic, social and environmental benefits. One such action involves industrial companies working cooperatively through a process known as “industrial symbiosis”. Industrial symbiosis deals with the exchange of wastes, by-products and energy among closely situated industrial enterprises, so that one company’s waste (materials/ water/energy) becomes an input to another company’s manufacturing operations.

This Case Study

The Kwinana Industrial Area is located 40km south of Perth and is the largest industrial area (1000 ha) in the State of Western Australia. It consists of a diverse range of industries ranging from manufacturing, fabrication and construction facilities through to high technology chemical and biotechnology plants and large resource processing industries. Kwinana is a major source of revenue for both the State and the Australian economy, corresponding to direct sales of AU$4.3 billion in 2001.

Kwinana is reported to have one of the largest number of industrial symbiosis waste exchanges for an industrial area anywhere in the world with 106 interactions between industrial enterprises. One example involves a pigment plant which supplies waste hydrochloric acid to a nearby chemical manufacturer to produce ammonium chloride for synthetic rutile production by the pigment plant. Previously, the ammonium chloride was imported at considerably higher cost.

How did we make it happen?

In 1991, Kwinana’s core industries established the Kwinana Industries Council (KIC) to organise air and water monitoring collectively for local industry in response to increased government and community expectations as well as safety considerations. KIC has since evolved into a coordinating body that, among other functions, assists and promotes industrial symbiosis in the area. The KIC is also contributing to research to identify further examples of symbiosis with support from the Australian Government via a Cooperative Research Centre for Sustainable Resource Processing and the Australian Research Council.

How far have we come?

Since 1990 the number of core industries in the Kwinana industrial area has increased from 13 to 21. Accompanying this growth the number of existing interactions has increased from 27 to 106.

The Centre for Cleaner Production at Curtin University has estimated that the industrial synergies at Kwinana have delivered a wide range of benefits including:

What have we learnt?

Industrial symbiosis harnesses market forces to deliver economic and environmental benefits. However, there are a number of factors which are preventing markets from utilising the concept of industrial symbiosis to its full potential. These include a lack of information, transaction costs and institutional arrangements. This highlights the importance of having a body such as the Kwinana Industrial Council to act as a broker to tackle these market impediments, to contribute to ongoing research, and to share experiences of the challenges and opportunities of industrial collaboration.

The potential for industrial symbiosis will vary from location to location and be heavily dependent on the type of industries and the extent to which their waste products constitute a potential input to complementary industrial processes. For example, the presence of chemical and industrial gas plants in Kwinana has played a key role in the establishment of many by-product exchanges between industrial enterprises.

For more information please visit: http://www.kic.org.au/