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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Studying at Cambridge

Geoff Stevens

Opportunities for and Barriers to Industrial Ecology in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada

Geoff Stevens

Opportunities for and Barriers to Industrial Ecology
in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada

This research is an effort toward improving the sustainability of industrial systems in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada.  Industrial symbiosis, a field of industrial ecology, treats waste materials and energy as resources that can be used as process inputs.  The concept of industrial symbiosis originated in Kalundborg, Denmark in 1989 and has since been deployed in numerous other regions, with many studies examining its success.  To date, only one study has been undertaken in Newfoundland and Labrador, though it was cancelled due to lack of interest in the study region.  The current research represents a renewed effort toward encouraging industrial symbiosis using a slightly different approach.
As a precursor to direct contact with members of industry, this research aims to uncover existing and potential synergies, thus generating an inventory of firms likely to be interested in further development of industrial symbiosis.  By extrapolating data from successful examples of industrial symbiosis, this study prioritizes opportunities for implementation, and identifies factors that may impede growth.  The study involves compiling a database of firms and matching them with resource flows obtained from literature.  Firms with corresponding material outputs and inputs were matched and evaluated based on information available from case studies.  Potential material exchanges were prioritized based on expected technical feasibility and sustainability performance.  The firms associated with these exchanges make up the initial target population for future work on implementing industrial symbiosis through facilitation.
By applying this concept in Newfoundland and Labrador, waste can substitute for raw materials or high grade energy, reducing environmental impact while improving economic performance.  Research has found examples of existing by-product exchanges and opportunities to implement new ones.  Challenges to their implementation include scale, capital cost, process modification, geography, and externalities.  Case studies show that similar challenges have been overcome through the efforts of facilitating organizations.
Results are consistent with the theory that industrial symbiosis occurs spontaneously as a result of normal market forces, but that these do not guarantee all opportunities will be actualized.   Furthermore, the unexploited opportunities indicate that there is a role for a facilitating organization in developing industrial symbiosis.
A major output of this study is a registry of firms to be targeted in future work.  The facilitation process will address the limitations inherent to the theoretical nature of this study.  As a starting point, the extrapolated data can be compared with information obtained directly from industry, and can be improved through an iterative process.