Authors: Robert U. Ayres
Addresses: CMER, INSEAD, Fontainebleau, France
Abstract: Industrial ecosystems, designed ||from scratch|| to imitate nature by utilizing the waste products of each component company as raw materials – or ||food|| – are an attractive theoretical idea. As yet they are mostly at the proposal stage. It is important to stress that process changes to take advantage of ||returns-to-closure|| (of the materials cycle) &ndash are very definitely not another version of ||end-of-pipe|| treatment of wastes. Is this an idea whose time has come? This paper examines a number of such proposals and considers the prerequisites for success. It appears that there are several: first, a fairly large scale of operation is required. This means that at least one first tier |exporter| must be present to achieve the necessary scale. Second, at least one other major firm (or industrial sector) must be present locally to utilize the major waste of the exporter, after conversion to a useful form. Third, one or more specialized ||satellite|| firms will be required to convert the wastes of the first tier |exporter| into useful raw materials for the consumer, and to convert the latter|s wastes into marketable commodities, secondary inputs to other local firms, or final wastes for disposal. A final condition, of great importance (and difficult to achieve in practice) is that a reliable mechanism be established to ensure close and long-term technical cooperation – i.e. information sharing – among the participating firms. The guarantor of this cooperation must be either the first tier |exporter| itself, a major bank, a major marketing organization, or a public agency. The detailed mechanisms by which it can be achieved in practice remain to be worked out.
Keywords: industrial ecosystems; materials cycle; systems integration; waste; raw materials; returns-to-internalisation; returns-to-closure; industrial ecology; information sharing.
International Journal of Technology Management, 1996 Vol.12 No.5/6, pp.608 - 624
Published online: 22 May 2009 *Full-text access for editors Full-text access for subscribers Purchase this article Comment on this article