Once upon a time in Kalundborg

What do a power plant, a refinery, a pharmaceutical factory, and a fish farm have in common? Not much, except the fact that you can find all of them in Kalundborg, on the shores of Denmark in the world’s first accidental Eco-Industrial Park (IEP). Originally a place where a few companies got together to exchange waste materials and energy, Kalundborg today sets the standard for industrial parks around the world.

How does this unlikely partnership work? According to Greener Ideal, it goes something like this: the power plants burns the refinery’s excess gas which generates electricity and steam which, in turn, warms fish ponds, heats city buildings and powers factories; sludge from the fish farm and factories then acts as fertilizers, while fly ash from the power plant becomes cement. The Danish example illustrates what can happen when businesses work together, and thankfully, Kalundborg is only the beginning.

Today’s eco-industrial park

Thanks to industrial parks that formed organically like Kalundborg, other businesses have come together to form intentional parks with the aim of sharing resources and energy. Examples of these parks can be found in nearly every country around the world, including Canada where initiatives like the St. Boniface Industrial Park in Winnipeg and the Burnside Business Park in Halifax, continue to pave the way to higher energy savings, and lower costs.

The most recent addition to the global list of industrial parks is Rantasalmi, an industrial park in Finland, destined to be the country’s first planned IEP (read more here). With the goal of improving energy efficiency, reducing waste, limiting emissions and improving their bottom line, all businesses involved in the park signed a common environmental policy and are well on their way to lessening their environmental footprint.

What does it take to start an eco-industrial park?

According to the Green Economy Coalition, an industrial park is one in which “businesses cooperate with each other and with the local community in an attempt to reduce waste and pollution, to share resources, and to help achieve sustainable development, with the intention of increasing economic gains and improving environmental quality.”

Because of the benefits to the community and local environment, eco-industrial parks are normally started up by city councils who partner with initial investors in the park. In the case of Rantasalmi, the municipality owns 49%, the log house manufacturer 49% and a smaller company holds the remaining 2%, an example of a successful public-private partnership. The regional council then appointed a local real estate company to direct a management body who oversaw operations during the initial building phase.

While every industrial park works differently, Greener Ideal suggests that there are three characteristics common to each and every park: co-location and proximity to recovery and recycling facilities; shared byproducts between companies for use within existing processes; and an emphasis on cleaner production.

Questions or comments about eco-industrial parks? Leave them below!

image credit: ell brown