Anant National University launches report on Industrial Symbiosis that encourages waste exchange platforms

Anant Centre for Sustainability has published a new study on Industrial symbiosis in Indian industrial estates. Titled ‘Industrial Symbiosis in India – Challenge or Opportunity? Learning from a study of Naroda Industrial Estate, Gujarat’,the report analyzed the challenges of waste exchange among 65+ manufacturing companies in the Naroda Industrial Estate, Ahmedabad.

The report’s primary purpose is to encourage collaboration and exchange underutilized (non-hazardous) waste materials of a company or the sector with another company to achieve a competitive advantage and attain a closed-loop materials system within geographic proximity. 

Naroda Industrial Estate (NIE) comprises more than 1200 manufacturing companies and is considered one of the largest eco-industrial development sites founded by the Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation.

The study performed quantitative and qualitative research methods to evaluate the material flow (raw materials, products, and waste materials of a company), the monetary flow of the waste materials and conducted social network analysis.

The study revealed how 78% of the waste generated from an industrial estate is sold, traded, or donated to formal and informal waste dealers, while 13% of the waste materials are dumped or destroyed in an open field. It also discovered that only 9% of the waste materials are reused within the generating facilities.

Furthermore, from the waste materials sent to the formal and informal waste dealers, only 1% of the waste is utilized in a symbiotic relationship. This exchange of waste between company owners is a self-driven symbiotic relationship on trust and cooperation.

The informal waste dealers primarily capture the waste materials market in an industrial estate. It remains an underused resource in closing the material loop.

Adequate legal support to the informal waste markets will provide a regular supply of materials to the formal recycling firms within an industrial estate. It will also prevent the exploitation of informal waste dealers. 

NIE has a plastics recycling firm within a 20 km radius; at the same time, NIE generates a lot of plastic waste.

One of the simplest and actionable solutions is that if the plastic waste generated within NIE is aggregated and sold to recycling firms with NIE, this will shorten the long material flow and improve the capacity utilization of the recycling plant. Other advantages include indirect reduction of transportation costs, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, etc.

Among the actionable solutions, the industries association office of every industrial estate has the potential to act as a local hub to initiate collaboration among companies to exchange dialogue and resources.

For instance, from time to time, these associations typically invite stakeholders to discuss several environmental problems concerning the industrial estate, which could serve as an excellent opportunity to share information and initiative towards industrial networking projects.

Strategic dialogue between bureaucrats, industrial owners, and academia can resolve environmental problems. 

The report concludes with an adequate framework for industrial symbiosis implementation in industrial units and clusters in India. The framework is backed by an Information and Communication Technology (ICT) platform architecture to enable a cross-sectional analysis of several companies to successfully establish industrial symbiosis networks or waste exchange platforms.

The current policies in India are, to a great extent, aligned more towards developing technical conditions and cleaner production processes. In contrast, formal and informal collaborations, social needs, and the entrepreneurs’ specialized knowledge in waste management in industrial estates are not adequately utilised. 

The pandemic caused by the novel virus, Covid-19, has revealed the risks associated with inadequate sanitation practices. Therefore we must realise now that focused attention to the colossal amounts of toxic industrial waste is  imperative.

Further, for facilitating the post-covid economic recovery, we can no longer afford to throw away waste that potentially golds value. Waste to wealth practices need to be maximised to ensure that we are able to build back economies and livelihoods of people. 

“Industrial estates in India can retro-fit industrial symbiosis practices or can incorporate them at the design phase itself. The manufacturing sector requires to change at an unprecedented rate to build back the economy better and greener. The research report will be a key tool in enabling this transition within industrial estates,” said Gokulram A, Researcher & Project Manager, Anant Centre for Sustainability, Anant National University. 

Anant Centre for Sustainability is a think-do-teach tank residing within Anant National University that focuses on affordable housing, indigenous models of circular economy, and building sustainable education campuses in India.