Industrial ecology is the study of the flows of materials and energy in industrial and consumer activities, of the effects of these flows on the environment, and of the influence of economic, political and social factors on the use, transformation and disposition of resources (White 1994). Industrial ecology applies the principles of material and energy balance, traditionally used by scientists and engineers to analyze well-defined ecological systems or industrial unit operations, to more complex systems of natural and human interaction. These systems can involve activities and resource utilization over scales ranging from single industrial plants to entire sectors, regions or economies. In so doing, the laws of conservation must incorporate a number of interacting economic, social and environmental processes and parameters. Furthermore, new methods and data are required to identify the appropriate principles and laws of thermodynamics at these higher levels of aggregation (Ayres 1995a, 1995b).
Figure 11.1 presents a conceptual framework for industrial ecology applied at different scales of spatial and economic organization, evaluating alternative management options using different types of information, tools for analysis and criteria for performance evaluation. As one moves from the small scale of a single unit operation or industrial production plant to the larger scales of an integrated industrial park, community, firm or sector, the available management options expand from simple changes in process operation and inputs to more complex resource management strategies, including integrated waste recycling and re-use options. Special focus has been placed on implementing the latter via industrial symbiosis, for example, through the pioneering work of integrating several industrial and municipal facilities in Kalundborg, Denmark (Ehrenfeld and Gertler 1997). At higher levels of spatial and economic organization, for example, at national and, in recent years, global scales of management, policy may be implemented through the tools of regulation, economic incentives, taxation, trade policy and international agreements.
To evaluate the full range of options illustrated in Figure 11.1, highly quantitative information on chemical properties, thermodynamic constants and constraints are needed, as are data relating to firm, sector, national and global resource utilization and conversion. However, these data are often unavailable or difficult to obtain, and more qualitative, order-or-magnitude information must be developed and used. These different types of information are used in developing mass and energy balances, formulating process simulation tools and optimizing process designs. For the latter, multiple objectives and performance criteria must be considered. At the local scale, performance measures include conversion efficiency, throughput, cost and safety. While these factors remain applicable
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