Industrial symbiosis and recycling in focus

During an intense afternoon at IVA the focus was on industrial symbiosis and recycling. In lectures by experts Emma Dalväg, Pär Larshans and Mats Eklund, and a workshop attended by around 100 people, a pathway towards a more circular society was laid out.

Emma Dalväg, a sustainability consultant at Coest, talked about the Win Win Gothenburg Sustainability Award, which went to Kalundborg Symbiosis, a successful Danish industrial symbiosis park. He also mentioned Sotenäs and Helsingborg, municipalities that have seen success in industrial symbiosis, and the company British Sugar as a good private sector example. A key factor for success in industrial symbiosis, according to Emma Dalväg, is leadership that drives the process forward, even where others lack the time or resources.

Mats Eklund, a professor at Linköping University spoke on the theme of “Barriers and Facilitators – What makes industrial symbiosis happen?” He emphasised the importance of not dealing with problems in isolation but using a combined approach. System boundaries are being erased in the global and digital society, and the environment and climate are well-known cross-system issues. As a particularly successful example of industrial symbiosis, Eklund mentioned Elleholms tomater, Sweden’s most climate-efficient tomato production operation. By using heat from the Södra Cell pulp mill and carbon dioxide from local alcohol production, only 0.05 kg of carbon dioxide per kilogram of tomatoes is generated in their production, which is 20 times better than the average.

Pär Larshans, Sustainability Director at Ragn-Sells, talked about the unsustainability of using 60 tons of resources per capita and year to produce what we consume, while our focus is otherwise mainly on reducing the 2.5 tons of household and industrial waste (excluding mining waste) that are generated. Ragn-Sells is tackling the problem through its involvement in the #ÄlskadeStad initiative where electric vehicles collect and coordinate delivery of goods to be returned, by phosphorus being recycled from sewage sludge and through speaking on the importance of the transition to a circular economy at venues such as the UN.

Following the inspiration speeches the audience members were divided into five groups based on choices previously indicated. A workshop then began for the purpose of finding ways to increase recycling and industrial symbiosis in plastics, textiles, food, mobility and space sharing.

The space sharing subproject focused on symbiosis in the form of matching difference actors to share spaces or functions. The subproject group delved deeper to determine what makes a successful match and connection between actors, and produced more detailed proposals and recommendations for various actors.

The food group took an important step towards reaching this subproject’s established goal of creating a platform and a national standard to measure and report food waste along the Swedish food chain. More than thirty representatives from different parts of the chain were tasked with deciding on an initial proposal for a measurement standard. The purpose is to find a solution during the course of the project that is not only acceptable for various actors along the chain, but that can also promote increased resource efficiency, new business opportunities and new synergies between actors and parts of the chain – both within the food chain and with other industries.

For the plastics group the workshop was an important means of examining industrial symbiosis for the industry and taking a look at emerging technologies for chemical recycling. The latter is interesting because it can handle mixed or polluted plastic waste in the recycling system. Chemical recycling can produce virgin plastic materials and is therefore important in a circular economy. But there is no easy solution without mechanical recycling which is the primary method used today. It will continue to have an important role and has benefits such as consuming less energy than chemical recycling.

The mobility group focused, among other things, on raising awareness of the value of a sharing economy for transport/mobility to promote industrial symbiosis and recycling in business and industry, society and the environment. Proposals were produced on how to optimise transport/mobility to promote industrial symbiosis and recycling for small and medium-sized enterprises.

The textile group’s discussions included how recycling standards differ from country to country and whether Sweden should adopt any of them. New recycling methods are emerging, including those from Wargön Innovation AB, but there is still a lot to do.