Collaboration makes circular economy come to life

Tomas_Bistrom_001
Tomas Biström

The circular economy is discussed a lot, but what can it mean it practice? In Kemira´s site in Helsingborg, Sweden, we have proved that industrial symbiosis, which is one key element in a circular economy, is not only a theory, but works in practice, too. We already have business models, establishments and distribution systems that collaborate large-scale around energy, materials and logistics.

The Kemira site in Helsingborg operates an industrial park by the name of Industry Park of Sweden (IPOS). The business idea is industrial symbiosis, which means that all businesses based in the industry park cooperate in order to achieve resource efficiency, reduce costs and to minimize their environmental impact.

The site currently hosts around 20 different companies within chemical and food industry, logistics and service. All companies within the park collaborate around energy, material, utilities, logistics, infrastructure and services. For example, the businesses in the industry park share fixed costs for infrastructure and central production plants, reducing costs for all involved companies. This also reduces environmental impact, as large-scale central utility production plants are far more energy efficient than several decentralized smaller production plants.

An important part of the industrial symbiosis is sharing of the recovered energy from Kemira’s own processes. Today, 600 GWh of energy is recovered every year to replace the consumption of primary fuels not only for Kemira but also for the companies within IPOS and Helsingborg City.

This recovered energy is the base load of the district heating network in Helsingborg, accounting for 1/3 of the total annual heat demand. As Kemira’s recovered energy is produced by exothermal reactions and by heat recovery from product flows it does not generate any CO₂ emissions. If the corresponding volume of energy were to be produced by for example oil, annual emissions would be 150 000 tons CO₂ per year.

Collaboration around material flows is also extensive, as the product or by-product from one plant becomes the raw material of another. Besides from saving costs and emissions from transportation, our material collaboration also increases resource efficiency and reduces waste streams and the consumption of virgin materials.

In 2014, Kemira Helsingborg site received E-Prize for Sweden´s most energy-smart company and was also finalist in the EU Sustainable Energy Awards 2016 for industrial symbiosis that facilitates sharing recovered energy from industrial processes.

What is really inspiring about the success in Helsingborg’s case, is the collaboration that has been key to achieving the excellent results. The industry park consists of some 20 companies collaborating around energy, material, utilities, logistics, infrastructure and services. Close collaboration with the local municipality and other local stakeholders has been equally important to achieve the full potential of the industry park.

Helsingborg is a great example of the circular economy coming to life, where one company’s waste or by-product becomes another company’s raw-material. And all of this resulting in improved resource efficiency, reduced running costs and smaller environmental impact.

Even though the Helsingborg industry park is a unique set-up that has developed over many years, systematic and continuous development as well as active collaboration are universal recopies for achieving sustainable results anywhere.

 

By Tomas Biström, Director, Corporate Responsibility at Kemira Oyj

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