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Shaping the Future of Malmö through Industrial Symbiosis

The LU Sustainability Forum sits down with Climate Strategist and Project Manager Malin Norling of Malmö stad regarding industrial symbiosis, current projects, and the upcoming Circular Economy Conference on May 24 in Lund.
Öresund bridge

Industrial symbiosis is a concept that is full of potential, and very well suited for manufacturing regions such as Skåne and greater Øresund. Malin explains that industrial symbiosis is when two or more companies use each other’s residual resources in their production or treatment processes. The concept aims to “close the loop” in terms of reducing and reusing wastes, such as heat, steam, water, and other materials. For example, excess low temperature heat can be used in fish farming, and the resulting waste can serve as a fertilizer. “This symbiosis can also extend beyond goods to the sharing of transport and services,” Malin points out. The sharing of compressed air between companies in a geographic area is an example of this.

Malin Norling. Photo: Jack Fraser

Malin is currently working with Malmö stad on the industrial symbiosis project Urban Magma (ERUF) and closely collaborating with Delad Energi är Dubbel Energi (Vinnova), which is managed by her co-worker Ellen Corke.

These projects aim to help shift the region into a greener, more circular economy. Malin states that, “Current projects are focused on approaching local companies and educating them on the concept of industrial symbiosis and the accompanying benefits. These benefits include financial savings, reduced need for raw materials, decreased pollution, increased competitiveness and higher resilience of businesses. It is also important to point out that it will help locate business opportunities that are being overlooked, thus creating new markets or niches and potential new jobs. Companies that explore possible partnerships by adopting this concept have the potential to not only reduce their waste and avoid the accompanying costs, but also to earn additional profit by selling their waste to other companies.

Although the concept is not yet widely adopted, it is becoming more common and the city of Malmö is working on this front to help companies understand how they can benefit from it while reducing their environmental impacts. Some successful examples of industrial symbiosis include Kalundborg, which developed over the last several decades in Denmark, and the Kemira Kemi IPOS industrial park in Helsingborg, Sweden. Some barriers that face companies interested in the concept include time constraints, funding for research, legislative limitations, and influence from stakeholders.

Another challenge associated with this concept is the difficulty to regulate, manage, and legislate business-to-business waste resource flows. Despite these challenges, more and more companies are becoming intrigued by the opportunities and are beginning to make connections with each other. For example, one carbon black producer in Malmö sells its excess heat to local energy provider E.ON. Malin suggests that there are other potential opportunities, such as “using heat pumps to collect and re-use excess low level heat from waste water.” There are many possibilities for those with the boldness and means to explore industrial symbiosis, and companies which proactively adopt this concept could reap the benefits.

Malin and Ellen will also be hosting a workshop at the Circular Economy Conference in Lund on May 24, 2016. The workshop will be based on storytelling and using simple, understandable examples to explain industrial symbiosis. The concept’s barriers will be identified, questioned, and discussed interactively, giving the audience a chance to brainstorm how these challenges can be overcome.

The article is written by Sustainability Forum journalist Jack Fraser, also a master student at iiiee, The Environmental Institute at Lund University.

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