Organizations will be faced with many ecological, operational, and financial questions in the coming years. They’ll have to decide how they fit into an ever-changing business and regulatory landscape. This rang true for a small city in Denmark.
At first glance, Kalundborg, Denmark—a city of 16,000 people 110 km west of Copenhagen—is just another quaint, European coastal town. But in reality, it’s achieved the world’s first circular economy.
A strategic economic zone—named the Kalundborg Eco-Industrial Park—was created in the 1960s to manage the city’s water supply more holistically. Within a few decades, the eco-industrial park grew organically, with 12 industrial actors across multiple domains (renewable and fossil-based energy, biotech/biology, pharmacy, glass) sharing more than 25 different resource streams.
An eco-industrial park (EIP) is an industrial park in which businesses cooperate with each other and with the local community to reduce waste by efficiently sharing resources.
With the help of ENGIE, the Kalundborg Eco-Industrial Park was able to identify and optimize its resource streams, driving larger bottom-line savings and greater environmental impact.
After each material—steam, wastewater, and sludge, to name a few—are used, the industrial park converts its waste into upcycled resources. The electric company gives excess heat to factories. The organic waste of a biology plant yields biogas for the refinery. Pharmaceutical sludge is sent to farmers to fertilize crops. The steam that was initially a byproduct for the electric utility is now a main product and income driver. What was once industrial waste has become revenue.
Organizations seeking to integrate sustainability into their operations—and do so profitably—should take a cue from Mother Nature. Rainforests, for instance, stabilize the world’s climate, produce food, and maintain the water cycle. Plants and animals share resources and repurpose waste, thereby streamlining nature’s supply chains. As a result, they preserve ecosystems from one generation to the next.
The Eco-Industrial Park saves Kalundborg €24 million in bottom-line savings annually. But the savings aren’t just financial—this process saves 635,000 tons of CO2, 3.6 million m3 of water, 100 GWh of energy, and 87,000 tons of solid materials.
tons in savings of CO2.
m3 savings in water.
GWh in energy savings.
tons of savings in solid waste.
The Kalundborg Eco-Industrial Park demonstrates how resource sharing among industrial actors in the same locality can be beneficial both ecologically and financially. For today’s organizations, applying circular models can yield enormous benefits in several business-critical areas.
Stories about circularity and industrial symbiosis like Kalundborg’s help organizations better position themselves to capitalize on a more sustainable and profitable future.