Companies searching for alternative uses or buyers for their waste, or pushing by-products up the value chain, may be discouraged by their lack of knowledge and access to information as most often the opportunity lies outside one’s own sector. Waste & recycling and procurement professionals tend to have backgrounds in a single sector’s process and requirements, rather than cross sector industrial symbiosis. Despite the large number of secondary material exchange success stories, the effective sharing of those case studies has yet to be provided. Information such as alternative material uses, material characteristics, typical sellers or buyers, and records of sales prices would all help scale secondary material consumption.
To address this challenge, knowledge must be improved through expert advice and accessible data. Many material marketplaces today are modeled on the “E-bay” platform, which post available materials for buyer browsing and then facilitate the transaction. However, most of these marketplaces provide neither expert guidance nor comprehensive examples and data that are required to enable secondary material reuse opportunities; often the data is out of date or lacking the technical specifications needed for process applications. Integrating these services into a marketplace addresses multiple barriers companies face in buying or selling secondary materials.
Launched in 2003 by International Synergies Ltd., the National Industrial Symbiosis Program (NISP) continues to gain traction among international organizations, governments and academia. First implemented in the United Kingdom, it has now been replicated in more than 20 countries at regional or national scale, involving over 30,000 companies on every continent, and responsible for diverting more than 47 million tons of waste from landfill in 8 years and avoiding more than 42 million tons of CO2-equiv emissions for 13 pence per tonne1. Often quoted in literature as an example of best practice, the model has even been described by the OECD as “an excellent example of systemic innovation vital for future green growth”2.
One of the innovations introduced by International Synergies to support NISP delivery is SYNERGie®, a resource reuse database and management system. Launched in 2009, the software allows users to search and match resources drawing on an extensive library of experience. With the support of synergy experts, the software enables companies to identify reuse opportunities and minimize their waste. Additionally, the software allows companies “to meet quality assurance protocol and audit requirements”3, a significant hurdle faced by most companies involved in secondary material transactions.
In collaboration with a Spanish software developer IRIS, International Synergies Ltd. is currently developing the next generation of SYNERGie® to drive mainstream adoption of materials reuse through industrial symbiosis. This activity is part of a larger European Commission Horizon 2020 funded program SHAREBOX, to enable the next generation of industrial symbiosis through “ICT and data intelligence”4. The main software upgrade lies in its accessibility: while the first platform was developed for expert users, the second is targeted at mainstream industry users. As part of SHAREBOX, SYNERGie 2.0 will generate automatic suggestions of synergies based on a set of criteria. By providing companies with reliable and secure information to successfully identify synergy opportunities and enabling resource use optimization5.
In January 2017, International Synergies Limited won the prestigious Edie’s Sustainability Leaders 2017 Awards under the Sustainability Product Innovation category for their world-renowned web-based resource reuse database SYNERGie™.
The next version SYNERGie 2.0 should be out for trial later this year.