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Circular Economy and Industrial Symbiosys

Two of the most important environmentally and economically sustainable operations currently being promoted and implemented in European Union policy are industrial symbiosis (IS) and circular economy (CE). 

Industrial symbiosis (IS) involves the identification and use of a company's secondary products, which are used to serve as raw materials for another organisation. Reducing waste emissions and primary resource consumption in resource-intensive industries is proposed as one of the critical ways to accelerate sustainable development. To preserve the value of a resource for as long as possible, traditional linear production processes are transformed into circular ones. 

This circular economy creates approaches for competitive advantage through the exchange of materials, energy and secondary products. For example, companies benefit in practice from lower operating costs and tax advantages through emission reductions. Furthermore, the industrial network offers opportunities for knowledge generation and transfer. However, companies are also faced with special challenges. The conversion of production processes to circular operations requires high investments. Also, circular products are often not more economical or environmentally friendly compared to the procurement of primary raw materials. In many cases, the secondary materials have to be technically processed, which in turn leads to material and energy costs. In addition, there are also dissipative losses in material properties due to mechanical recycling processes. Therefore, the implementation of such sustainable industrial networks with circular processes is not easy. 

In this special track, we want to work out how Environmental Informatics can help to establish CE and which methods and tools may be used in this field. i.e.so-called recommender systems can provide support in decision-making regarding procurement, recycling of products, the redesign of processes and the acquisition of industrial capacities. In combination with material flow analysis tools, they help to uncover optimisation potentials, but also to assess economic risks. 


• Use cases for Environmental Informatics
• Methods and Tools applicable in this application domain
• Barriers and difficulties for using ICT in this field

Expected Outcome:

• List of methods and tools that seem particularly suitable for use in this area
• List of pitfalls to avoid when using ICT in this field

Addressed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): 

Special Track Chair:

Volker Wohlgemuth, Environmental Informatics Unit, HTW Berlin