Inderscience Publishers

Exploring the economics of industrial ecology through case studies of industrial symbiosis in the forest industries of British Columbia and Scotland

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The concept of industrial ecology is intrinsically appealing, but the practical sustainability of its precepts has yet to be adequately tested beyond the site-specific locations of most of its exemplars. Any environmental assessment must cover both sourcing and markets to establish whether initiatives to minimise mass and energy loss and promote symbiotic activities on-site are well-founded in coherent sustainable strategies for the relevant sectors off-site. The economics of industrial ecology is explored within this analytical framework, examining the interactions between the compositional and the technological elements of production that may combine to decouple environmental pollution from economic growth. Following a brief review of current industrial ecology exemplars in the forest industries sector, contrasting case studies of nascent dematerialisation of forest industries throughput are analysed. British Columbian First Nations' initiatives entailing communal eco-management systems within ancient temperate rainforests are compared with attempts to develop a modern Scottish forest industries cluster based on exotic softwood plantations. The findings emphasise the need for industrial ecology to extend its scope to embrace reform on broader resource management policies, as well as the promotion of site-based ecological technology, if it is to deliver the institutional reflexivity that can internalise both physical and economic environmental externalities.

Keywords: industrial ecology, ecological modernisation, environmental Kuznets curves, forest industry, British Columbia, Scotland, economics, industrial symbiosis, environmental assessment, environmental pollution, economic growth, dematerialisation, communal eco-management systems, resource management, ecological technology, environmental technology

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