Efficient management of resources is a key issue for societies at all levels of development. Developed countries have made great progress in recent years towards the recovery of value from waste and effective management of disposal facilities. Low to medium income countries, however, face a critical combination of rapid urbanisation, industrialisation and population growth to compound the challenges of accomplishing technological change. Thus potentially valuable resources are discarded and serious pollution issues remain to be addressed.
Academics and policy makers alike have been drawn to the principles of industrial ecology in as a means to devise what has been termed a ‘circular economy’. The idea of a circular economy is that used resources remain in the economic system, rather than being disposed of. This implies recovery of material/energy from all stages of production, distribution and consumption. Industrial ecology holds that industrial society would be rendered less harmful to the environment if it drew on lessons from nature. For example, designing products and processes to minimise the full life cycle social/environmental impact; promoting the closing of material ‘loops’ in production; reducing the potential toxicity of waste by materials substitution. Industrial symbiosis is an element of industrial ecology involving the exchange of unwanted materials/water/energy between organisations. A fundamental contention of industrial ecology is that resource saving initiatives of this nature also bring economic savings to companies. The development of industrial symbiosis networks, or industrial ecosystems, has been seen as an economic development tool. However, the achievement of economic benefit can be elusive and the implementation of IE has been problematic.
With this theme, we are keen to continue the lively debate at previous ISDRS conferences which has resulted in a number of journal special issues and individual publications addressing a wide variety of issues related to resource management and in particular the application of industrial ecology and the circular economy. Numerous people have been involved in co-chairing and participating in these sessions; we look forward to continuing these productive and immensely enjoyable collaborations. We warmly invite participation from newcomers interested in joining, critiquing or presenting alternative perspectives on these debates. Theoretical, empirical or modelling approaches are welcome, with developed, developing or emerging economy perspectives.
Areas of interest might include, but are not limited to:
- Industrial symbiosis and eco-industrial networking
- Social network analysis
- Policy approaches to the circular economy
- Material flows, input-output analysis
- Methods and methodologies of industrial ecology
- Sustainable resource management
- Waste management in developing countries
- Recycling e.g., cost benefit, life cycle analysis