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Novo Nordisk | Xerox | Chaparral Steel | Suprachem
Kalundborg, DenmarkStyria, Austria
Industrial Ecology: Case Profiles

See also our article on British Petroleum's strategic decision to lead the oil industry in accepting climate change as a relatively likely fact of life. 

Novo Nordisk

This global pharmaceutical company participates in the industrial symbiosis at Kalundborg, Denmark but it has also demonstrated the competitive advantage of developing biologically based industrial materials.

Novo Nordisk has captured over 50% of the billion dollar world market for industrial enzymes. This competitive advantage came from early recognition that biological substitutes for synthetic chemicals would be in high demand. "We're trying to find natural solutions to industrial problems, '' explains Lisbeth Anker, who heads Novo's worldwide microbe search. "In the soil of an Indonesian Monkey Temple, the father of a Novo scientist unearthed an enzyme that is now widely used by soft-drink suppliers to change starch into sugar. In a pile of leaves at a Copenhagen cemetery, a researcher picked up a bug that produces an enzyme that can be used in detergents to help remove protein stains.

Enzymes are natural catalysts that speed up chemical reactions without being consumed in the process. They are biodegradable. They function best in mild conditions so their use requires up to a third less energy than many synthetic chemicals need. They are used in detergent, fabric, food processing, pulp and paper, leather, industrial cleaning, and agricultural applications. (Business Week. 1994. "Novo Nordisk's Mean Green Machine: It's at the top of a growing market: Finding natural substances to replace chemicals." November 14, 1994, New York.)

Xerox Asset Recycle Management Program

The ARM initiative at Xerox Corporation reflects the equipment design strategies of product-life extension recommended by Walter Stahel. The mission: "Asset Recycle Management provides the leadership, strategy, design principles, operational and technical support to maximize global recycling of parts and equipment, resulting in a major competitive, as well as environmental advantage for Xerox."

This mission has been built into the company's global organization with an ARM Vice President responsible for achieving 100% recyclability of all manufactured parts and assemblies. Remanufacturing to high quality standards and resale to new users will extend the life of equipment several fold and reduce demand on virgin resources. "Xerox chooses to evaluate products on the basis of quality and performance, not on the degree of virgin material used . . ." The initiative is designed to streamline the process by which returned machines are reconditioned, thus increasing return on investment..

The company estimates it has added hundreds of millions of dollars to its bottom line since ARM was formally started in 1991.

Chaparral Steel

Chaparral Steel is a Midlothian Texas company seeking to define every output as a product, saying, “Waste is a sacrificed financial opportunity!” CEO Gordon Forward's strategic goal is to generate zero waste. Steel is the world's most recycled material and the mini-mill industry, with Chaparral ones of its largest producers, relies on recycled steel as its feedstock. Chaparral generates much of its raw material from an on-site auto shredder. There were major unutilized by-products from the shredding and the mill itself.

Chaprral's Project STAR (Systems and Technology for Advanced Recycling) set targets for reduced resource consumption; enhancing value of by products; and reducing waste volumes. The company estimates this program has gained over $6M in new revenues and $2.9M savings per year.

Specific improvements include:

  • Baghouse dust -- process changes reduced disposal costs and increased ecovery of metals . Cost saving $2.9M
  • Slag value: -- process changes increased value of the by-product to $6M (as cement component)
  • Solvents -- replacement with non-toxic products and reduction in volumes saved $400K
  • Using other wastes  -- water and energy
Chaparral is working to share its learnings about resource efficiency through the World Business Council for Sustainable Development Gulf of Mexico regional office..

(Based upon Redefining Recycling: 'Everything is a Product' by Barbara Quinn, Contributing Editor
October 1995 issue of Pollution Engineering magazine p.67.)


Suprachem is a wholly owned subsidiary of the major South African steel company, Iscor, responsible for managing all company by-products. This internal resource recovery company researches new uses and means of generating higher value from familiar by-products; operates reprocessing plants; and markets all of the reclaimed materials.

By putting these responsibilities on a separate bottom line Iscor has enabled steel plant managers to focus on their task of producing steel competitively. It has also created a business unit with high motivation to reuse every by-product and to gain return on the investment.

This appears to be a fairly unique example of spontaneous strategic "industrial ecology" that other companies could learn from.

A Recycling Network in Styria, Austria

For several years no researchers identified industrial ecosystems comparable to Kalundborg. However, Erich Schwarz at Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz has discovered and studied a much larger, more diverse "industrial recycling network" in the Austrian province of Styria. The research started by tracing the by-product inputs and outputs of two major enterprises and soon found a complex network of exchanges among over 50 facilities. Industries participating include agriculture, food processing, plastics, fabrics, paper, energy, metal processing, wood working, building materials, and a variety of waste processors and dealers.

Materials traded in the Styrian network include the familiar recyclables like paper, power plant gypsum, iron scrap, used oil, and tires, as well as a wide range of other by-products. Schwarz does not report on activities relating to energy co-generation or cascading.

The plant managers in Styria were not aware of the larger pattern of exchange that had evolved spontaneously until the research team informed them of their findings. They were motivated purely by the revenues from by-products they could sell and the savings in landfill disposal costs for either sold or free outputs. In some cases the by-products are less expensive or of higher quality than primary materials would be.

The Styrian recycling network suggests that Kalundborg may be unique only in the level of awareness developed there. Dr. Schwarz and his research team are studying other spontaneously occurring industrial ecosystems (they call them industrial recycling networks) in Northern German. This research initiative is developing information system tools and business networks to extend the pattern of exchange further.

Material on this page is adapted from Discovering Industrial Ecology, the Eco-industrial Park Handbook  and various papers by Indigo staff.

Back to IE page | IE Research Tools | An Industrial Ecology Bibliography | IE on the Web

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