Prospecting the sustainability implications of an emerging industrial symbiosis network

In order to enable industrial symbiosis (IS) as an approach for regional sustainable development, it is important that stakeholders involved in facilitating symbiotic exchanges can measure and comprehend the potential benefits and impacts. However, previous assessments have been sporadic and limited to only a few indicators, primarily focused only on existing IS examples or networks and very few have examined potential developments.

This study expands the assessment of IS networks by reviewing the environmental and socioeconomic implications of an emerging network on the west coast of Sweden using life cycle assessment and socioeconomic assessments to illustrate the implications for the firms of the network and regional sustainability. The results suggest that the IS network has the potential to make a positive contribution to the environmental performance of the industries and the socioeconomic status of the region. Of key importance is the potential to cascade the use of nutrients and avoid large eutrophication impacts to the neighboring sea in addition to the large greenhouse gas emissions reductions by avoiding and replacing conventional processes and products.

The socioeconomic assessment illustrated that the IS network could make a substantial contribution to the region for job creation, revenues, local skills base, research and innovation and regional identity. The results provide insights on the potential of industrial symbiosis for regional sustainable development, which may be important for decision makers, firms involved in the network and municipalities, nationally and internationally to advance local efforts with facilitating industrial symbiosis and to understand how these networks can be assessed.

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