Industrial Symbiosis and Collaborative Economy

Lorenzo Baronti  <img src="" alt="Trulli" width="25" height="25">
Lorenzo Baronti Trulli

Masters in Circular Economy - Università degli Studi della Tuscia

Industrial Symbiosis, genealogy of the term

By industrial symbiosis we mean the interaction between different industrial plants, grouped in districts or at a useful distance to make the operation feasible, used in order to maximize the reuse of resources, normally considered waste and optimizing the knowledge and skills between companies.

That’s the key topic we are going to discuss today at Alkebulan as the company does not only produce briquettes, but even strives to implement collaboration between local companies to create new assets.

In 1992, the physicist Robert Frosch introduced, during his lecture “Towards and Industrial Ecology” at the United Kingdom Fellowship of Engineering, the concept of industrial ecology: the analogy between natural ecosystems and industrial ecosystems. The term was coined from the union of two lemmas:

For industrial ecology, the world economy is seen as a network of industrial processes that follow the linear principle of extracting resources from the earth, transforming them into goods, products, and then selling them to meet market needs (following the linear concept of the “Take, Make and Dispose”, questioned by the theory of the circular economy).

The concept of “industrial metabolism” vs industrial symbiosis

In the same years (1989) Robert Ayres developed the metaphor of the biosphere/technosphere in order to explain and illustrate the concepts of ecology and industrial metabolism, where the links with the biosphere are highlighted through a diagram, made famous, which identifies the parallel activities performed by the action of the biosphere with those adopted in the technosphere. Therefore, where the evolution of the biosphere has led over the millennia to an efficient use of materials and energy, in the technosphere we witness the exploitation of resources and the release of unused by-products into the environment.

According to Ayres, by learning from the biosphere, the technosphere can design and manage its processes trying to improve its efficiency and limiting, as much as possible, the release of residues and waste into the environment. With “industrial metabolism” Ayres intends to identify that chain of physical processes that transform raw materials and energy, in addition to work, into products and waste/waste. One of the objectives of the discipline is therefore to study the flow of materials through society in order to better understand the sources, causes and effects of emissions. According to Marian R. Chertow the part of industrial ecology known as “industrial symbiosis” involves traditionally separate industries with an integrated approach aimed at promoting competitive advantages through the exchange of matter, energy, water and by-products. Among the key aspects that allow the realization of industrial symbiosis are the collaboration between companies and the opportunities for synergy available in an appropriate geographical and economic environment.

Collaborative Economy

The industrial symbiosis term is key to develop a larger collaborative economy withing companies, cities and countries.

The collaborative economy is a recently born and still developing economic model that embraces very different initiatives and projects, from digital platforms where you can offer goods and services to cohousing spaces. In fact, this economic model enhances the concept of sharing and using an asset rather than buying it and using it exclusively, offering multiple advantages, not only economic and social but also environmental. Let’s find out everything about the collaborative economy to learn more about this economic model increasingly widespread.

Within the collaborative economy there are companies based on very different business models such as:

Advantages of collaborative economy

Individuals can benefit of many advantages from collaborative economy:

For companies instead, the benefits of the collaborative economy are to be translated into:

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