Industrial Ecology Earlier Attempts

There is little doubt that the concept of industrial ecology existed well before the expression, which began to appear sporadically in the literature of the 1970s. As usual, on certain occasions the same expression does not refer to the same concept. In the case of industrial ecology, it was referring to the regional economic environment of companies (Hoffman 1971; Hoffman and Shapero 1971) or was used as a 'green' slogan by some industrial lobbies in reaction to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) (Gussow and Meyers 1970). On the other hand, the concept of industrial ecosystems is clearly present, although not explicitly named, in the writings of systems ecologists such as Odum and Hall (Odum and Pinkerton 1955; Hall 1975). In fact, and not surprisingly, systems ecologists studying biogeochemical cycles had for a very long time the intuition of the industrial system as a subsystem of the biosphere

* The author wishes to express special thanks to Dr. Jacques Grinevald, professor of History of Science and Technology, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Lausanne (EPFL), and Dr. Alberto Susini, Geneva Labour Inspection for suggesting many valuable references.

(Hutchinson 1948; Brown 1970). But this line of thought has never been actively investigated, with the notable exception of agroecosystems, whereas the recent industrial ecology perspective acknowledges the existence of a wide range of industrial ecosystems with varying degrees and patterns of interactions with the biosphere, from certain kinds of almost 'natural' agroecosystems to the supremely artificial ecosystems, like space ships (Cole and Brander 1986; Jones et al. 1994; Folsome and Hanson 1986; Lasseur 1994).

What might be the earliest occurrence of the expression 'industrial ecosystem' (in accordance with today's concept and in the published literature in English) can be found in a paper by the late well-known American geochemist, Preston Cloud. This paper was presented at the 1977 Annual Meeting of the German Geological Association (Cloud

1977). Interestingly, it is dedicated to Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen, the pioneer of bioec-onomics who on many occasions has insisted on the importance of matter and material flows in the human economy in a thermodynamical perspective, and has also extensively written on technological dynamics (Georgescu-Roegen 1976a, 1976b, 1978,1979a, 1979b, 1980, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1986, 1990; Grinevald, 1993).

Several attempts to launch this new field have been made in the last couple of decades, with very limited success. Charles Hall, an ecologist at New York State University, began to teach the concept of industrial ecosystems and publish articles on it in the early 1980s, without getting any response (Hall et al. 1992). At about the same time, in Paris, another academic, Jacques Vigneron, independently launched the notion of industrial ecology, without awakening any real interest for his part, either (Vigneron 1990).

The industrial ecology concept was indisputably in its very early stages of development in the mid-1970s, in the context of the flurry of intellectual activity that marked the early years of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). Set up following the 1972 United Nations Conference on Human Environment in Stockholm, UNEP's first director was Maurice Strong. One of his close collaborators at the time was none other than Robert Frosch, who was to make a decisive contribution to the revival of the concept of industrial ecology thanks to an article published in 1989 in the monthly magazine Scientific American.

A similar intellectual atmosphere also prevailed around the same period in other circles, such as the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (ECE). For example, many papers presented during an international seminar organized by the ECE in 1976 on what was called at that time 'Non-waste Technology and Production' disseminated ideas similar to those discussed today in the cleaner production and industrial ecology literature (ECE

1978). Another example: Nelson Nemerow, who has been active in the industrial waste treatment field in the USA for more than 50 years, acknowledges in a his book a brain-storming session with Alex Anderson of UNIDO in Vienna during the early 1970s, at which time the idea of 'environmentally balanced industrial complexes' in the perspective of zero pollution was born (Nemerow 1995). Very similar ideas were discussed by Theodore Taylor, a nuclear physicist turned environmentalist, and Charles Humpstone, a lawyer, in a book published in New York at around the same time (Taylor and Humpstone 1972). In fact, in 1967 Taylor created the International Research and Technology Corporation (IR&T, based in Washington, DC), a company devoted to the development of these concepts, of which he was the president and Robert Ayres the vice-president. Clearly, ideas such as 'environmentally balanced industrial complexes' proposed in the early 1970s can be considered as precursors of more recent concepts, like eco-industrial parks (Lowe 1992) and zero emission industrial clusters (Pauli 1995). New other examples of similar thinking could be provided, and it is likely that many of them have not yet been documented (Farvar and Milton 1972; Dasmann et al. 1973). This is especially true for countries like the former Soviet Union and East Germany, where a fair amount of literature dealing with resource and waste optimization is still accessible only in Russian or German. In Moscow, for example, a 'Department of Industrial Ecology' has been in operation for almost two decades at the Mendeleiev Institute of Chemical Technology (Zaitsev 1993; Ermolenko 1994; Melkonian 1994; Kirakossian and Sorger 1994).

In East Germany, during the 1960s, cybernetics and systems approach became increasingly part of the country's planned economy official thinking (Altmann et al. 1982; Busch et al. 1989), under the direct leadership of Walter Ulbricht, Seretary General from 1950 to 1971 of the Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschland (or SED, or East German Communist Party). As a result, systematic efforts were undertaken to ensure the best possible use of wastes and by-products, and specific laws were even passed for that purpose (Reidel and Donner 1977).

One could find many examples of efforts to reduce waste and close material loops from the early days of the Industrial Revolution, like the work of Peter Lund Simmonds (1814-1897) in England (Desrochers 2000). In fact, certain industrial sectors like dyes and petrochemicals largely developed from making use of waste and by-products (Talbot, 1920; Spitz 1988). Sometimes, attempts to reduce waste were done in a systematic way, as in the case of the Committee on Elimination of Waste in Industry of the Federated American Engineering Societies in the early 1920s (CEWI 1921; Hays 1959; Haber 1964). On November 19, 1920, Herbert Hoover was elected the first President of the Federated American Engineering Societies. Among his first acts, he named 17 engineers for a Committee on Elimination of Waste in Industry, which completed in five months a detailed analysis of waste in six branches of industry: building industry, men's clothing manufacturing, printing, metal trades, and textile manufacturing (eight years later, the same Herbert Hoover became the 31st President of the USA).

However, it is important to remember that industrial ecology offers a much broader perspective than just reducing or using waste. Industrial ecology aims at the integrated management of all resources (not only waste), within the conceptual framework of scientific ecology. Thus, strictly speaking, industrial ecology could not have been imagined prior to the emergence and progressive elaboration of the concept of ecosystem (Tansley 1935; Golley 1993).

Among all the earlier attempts, however, two deserve to be mentioned in some detail here: the Belgium ecosystem research, and the ground-breaking work carried out in Japan.

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