Pollution and environmental degradation are two of the most pressing problems that we are facing today and, one of its main promoters, is found in industry, which is by far the economic sector that has the greatest impact on the environment and the health of the planet. For this reason, little by little new models of manufacturing and management of raw materials are being implemented that are focused on reducing the impact of this sector of the human economy. A good example of this is the so-called industrial ecology, which is an industrial model that integrates different elements in order to reduce its impact on the immediate surroundings. If you want to know a little more about what industrial ecology is with examples, and to know some examples of success where it is already being applied, keep reading AgroCorrn and we will tell you about it.
What is industrial ecology
The industrial ecology is an industrial system designed to mimic the way an ecosystem works . For this, the industrial activity is developed by associating with each other. In other words, the factories do not operate independently, but a mutual cooperative relationship is established that is reminiscent of the trophic chains that occur in natural ecosystems with a wide range of biodiversity.
In this way, an industrial model is presented that reduces its impact on the environment , since waste generation and energy dependence are reduced. In addition, this also has a significant economic impact, since it is a model that is highly profitable by reducing infrastructure maintenance costs.
How an industrial ecology system works
When thinking of an industrial ecology system, it is inevitable to think of natural ecosystems. Natural ecosystems feed on themselves, that is, they take the initial energy from the renewable natural resources available and, from there, each link in the food chain feeds the next and so on. Finally, what could be considered as the “last link”, feeds the initial link and, in this way, a circular system is established that allows the introduction of new assets in the form of raw materials or energy beyond that of the found naturally in the middle.
Industrial ecology works the same way. Their priority is that industrial waste from one activity serves as raw material for another and, in turn, waste from this second is the raw material for a third, and so on. This leads to a reduction in dependence on external raw materials, since the main bulk comes from the reuse of waste from another industry.
This is achieved by developing a properly managed industrial plan. That is, there must be closeness and communication between the different industries that make up the fabric of the industrial ecosystem, just as it happens in nature. In this way, an industrial ecology environment can be successfully established, as all industries are voluntarily connected to each other , ensuring that waste from one can be used by another.
Industrial ecology example: Kalundborg
The environments that have implemented industrial ecology models go far beyond the classic industrial estates. A good example is found in Kalundborg, a town of about 20,000 people in northern Denmark .
The industrial ecology model began to be implemented in the 60s of the 20th century and, little by little, it has been refined until it becomes what it is today, one of the most efficient industrial ecology environments that we can find. in Europe. Kalundborg has an eco-industrial park that works like a food chain in a natural ecosystem.
In Kalundborg there are:
- An electricity plant.
- An oil refinery.
- A sulfuric acid factory.
- A cement company.
- A plasterboard (plasterboard) factory.
- A biomass factory.
- Local farms.
In addition, roads are also manufactured and repaired, as well as the city of Kalundborg itself is serviced. What is really interesting about all this is that all these buildings and their activities are related to each other.
To get an idea, the power plant produces steam as waste. However, this steam is used by the oil refinery , which supplies gas to both the power plant itself and the plasterboard factory . In addition, the refinery produces sulfur as waste, but that is the raw material for the sulfuric acid factory .
On the other hand, the same steam generated by the power plant is used in the biomass factory , which produces yeast as waste, although this yeast serves as food for pig farms . Likewise, as a result of the activity of the biomass factory, fermented sludge is also produced, which is waste that is reused by local farms.
In the case of the power plant, the volatile compounds that would pollute the atmosphere are reused in the manufacture of cement , and solid waste is part of the raw material with which asphalt is recovered from the roads. At the same time, the excess heat produced by the power plant is used to provide a heating service to city buildings, which in turn forwards the waste heat to the plant itself so that it can use it and thus reduce its production as well.
In short, as you can see, it is an industrial ecosystem in which all industries are connected to each other . This does not mean that they are completely self-sufficient, but it does mean that they greatly reduce both their dependence on raw materials and external energy by using waste from other activities for their own benefit. The result is an industrial model with a much lower environmental impact than traditional models and that also benefits all the social and economic agents involved.
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