Enabling industrial symbiosis collaborations between SMEs from a regional perspective
Journal article, 2018
Small and Medium Enterprises make up the vast majority of the businesses within the European Union, and are consequently important contributors to local and regional well-being. Nevertheless, Small and Medium Enterprises face many challenges when it comes to fostering innovation and improving environmental performance as part of their day-to-day activities. In parallel, the global consumption of raw materials is increasing, which makes it necessary to define and establish strategies to reduce the amount of, and dependence on, raw material extraction and imports, whilst also improving the sustainability of SMEs. In this context it is essential to promote circular economy strategies, such as industrial symbiosis partnerships, where companies use the waste products of other industries as raw materials. To achieve this, there is a need to find enablers to support industrial symbiosis collaborations among SMEs. These could include regional developers and local authorities. The aims of this study are to investigate whether industrial symbiosis is already a common practice within SMEs in the Västra Götaland Region of Sweden, as well as identifying barriers and motivations for partnerships. For this purpose, case studies of two industries were carried out: beer production and mushroom farming. Information was collected using on-site visits and semi-structured interviews, and the key findings where combined with a literature review, then used to propose new industrial symbiosis opportunities. The results show that industrial symbiosis is already used by some of the beer and mushroom producers. Economic gains and better environmental performance were presented as the main motivations for the companies to be involved in these partnerships. Nevertheless, industrial symbiosis could be extended to also include those companies that do not yet share their waste, mostly due to a lack of time or knowledge. Consequently, the study suggests potential industrial symbiosis partnerships that could be implemented within a short period of time, and be used by the local authorities to help SMEs to achieve circularity of wastes. Future work considers the dissemination of the results among SMEs as well as apply the approach to other types of industries operating in the region to identify additional IS potential partnerships.