May/June 1998 edition
Industrial Ecology An Emerging Technology
Industrial Ecology is an emerging field of technology that is less than a decade old, yet it may change the methods used in manufacturing in ways that could be nothing less than revolutionary. In fact, those involved and those being educated in industrial design and development may find themselves approaching the manufacturing phase of economic development in entirely new and innovative ways. Terms like "dematerialization," "premanufacturing," "life cycle stage," solid residues, liquid residues, gaseous residues, and "balanced biological ecosystem" will become commonplace and will affect the economy in ways that are not entirely predictable.
Industrial ecology focuses on development that is sustainable over the long term. As such, it means designing and producing environmentally responsible products that can be "unmanufactured," so to speak, with their component parts lending themselves to recomposition back into raw materials so they can be reused to make the same or new products. Accordingly, the industrial process will have to include recycling as a major component of its methods.
Another component will be dematerialization, in which lessor amounts of raw materials are used to make new products that perform the same functions as their predecessors. Another component will focus on switching to manufacturing processes that require less energy and contribute less carbon dioxide to the global warming problem. Mining residues is another component. This involves recovering materials from old products and recycling them instead of mining them. For instance, recovering silver after photographic processing, something that accounts for half of all silver used today. Another involves companies upgrading parts, such as modules, instead of discarding them when they wear out or become obsolete.
Although the terms and phrases used in describing Industrial Ecology are esoteric sounding, the actual application of its processes is far from exclusive. A good example is the industrial district of Kalundborg, Denmark. Here, waste gases from an oil refinery are burned as fuel at Denmark's largest power plant, and by-products from the power plant's coal burners are used to produce cement and road fill. In addition, gypsum produced from the plant's air-pollution controls is used to make wallboard, and the plant's excess steam is used to heat a fish farm, neighboring companies and many of the town's homes. Also, the refinery's coolant water is shared, reducing water consumption by about 25 percent, and a nearby pharmaceutical firm's production of penicillin and insulin yields a nutrient-rich sludge used as a fertilizer at nearby farms.
From this example it can be seen that economic development practitioners would do well to look into this emerging field of technology because the possibilities for new industries that accompanying jobs are very great.
The emerging idea is beginning to be looked upon more and more as a constructive practical way of maintaining our economic well-being while at the same time protecting the environment from destructive industrial development. Accordingly, a new Journal of Industrial Ecology is being edited at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, and is published for Yale by the MIT Press
For more information on this journal, contact: The MIT Press Journal Circulation 617/253-2889. [Source: Economic Development Monthly]
The Industrial Ecology Assessment Program [IEAP] program is looking for small and mid-sized companies across Colorado who want to participate in a free industrial ecology assessment. The program is designed to help companies apply the principles of natural ecology to commercial and industrial activities by encouraging the conversion to closed loop systems driven by economics not regulation, and with a focus on prevention rather than redemption.
IEAP will work with participating firms to identify manufacturing input [resources] and output [waste] streams. IEAP will create a protected database to capture and analyze the process and identify symbiotic linkages for use of these streams. Examples would be to find a local company with a manufacturing process that can utilize another firm's waste, thus providing lower cost resource for one and reduced disposal costs for another. IEAP then helps initiate and support the establishment of the linkages between the two, including overcoming legal and regulatory barriers, if any.
Broader objectives of the program are to create local interest and commitment to the principles of industrial ecology on an individual business basis as well as a business to business basis.
The independently funded IEAP was established by the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), with support from the Colorado State University (CSU). For further information, contact Andrew R. Trenka, Phone: 970-491-3864; email: email@example.com or Cynthia Schmidt: Phone: 303-297-2107; email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Technology Community is published bi-monthly as a cooperative venture of Colorado organizations involved in commercialization of new inventions, products and technologies. Any technology organization or company is invited to submit brief articles via fax or e-mail to:CU Business Advancement Center,
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