The Role of Model Contracts in the Emergence of Industrial Symbiosis Networks

by Jessica Bass

The use of one manufacturer’s discarded materials as inputs along the line of another manufacturing process holds strong potential for helping maximize efficient environmental, economic, and social aspects of resource use. This practice, known as Industrial Symbiosis (IS), is an emerging area of study within the field of Industrial Ecology, focused upon encouraging cooperation and exchange and resource recovery among businesses. These efforts to facilitate mutually beneficial and sustainable trade can be seen both in individual firm-to-firm exchange, and at the scale of Industrial Symbiosis Networks (ISNs), involving the interconnection of multiple relationships among firms. The potential improvements in efficiency stemming from ISNs are typically economically advantageous for businesses, yet very little research has previously been conducted to cultivate the creation and maintenance of these networks. Albino et al. (2015) seek to analyze the different factors that disrupt the formation of ISNs, and to design a model contract that will offer the greatest support for ISNs in in the presence of these challenges. Continue reading

A Holistic Consideration of Product Life Cycles

by Jessica Bass

Worldwide production, use, and disposal of products and resources without thought of the value of natural elements they comprise from or consideration of how these will re-enter the ecosystem, continuously draws society farther along an unsure path. At some point we will have to face questions of how to sustain ourselves using the resources that we had previously burned, buried, or tossed away. Analyzing the environmental, technical, economic, and social factors inherent in products to ensure they are well-sourced and responsibly disposable may seem an overwhelming task at the individual level, but the potential for producing a means of measuring these factors through a single, holistic system, allows the possibility of guiding informed decisions in resource use and policy. Dewulf et al. (2015) have developed an analytical framework to help users identify the impacts of a product or resource’s life cycle from its start as a raw material or energy carrier, through its manufacturing, use, and disposal, quantifying its sustainability across many different respects of these processes. The integrated sustainability assessment framework produced ultimately holds potential to serve as a compass to guide social support for, and policy decisions regarding, product use based upon a multitude of stable and sustainable factors. Continue reading

Natural Selection of Model Ecosystems for Industrial Ecology

by Jessica Bass

Whether gathering observations virtually, outdoors, or in a laboratory, the process of establishing the conditions for and collecting a strong body of data is often a lengthy exchange of trials and errors. Constant advancements in information and technology, and a dependence upon simulated modeling in some areas, can leave scientists, and potentially entire fields of study, continually struggling to catch up. Bollinger et al. (2015) suggest, however, that efforts to create such scientific models and to gather data, can be approached strategically, offering a potential for more quickly-developed and longer-lasting systems that may benefit fields highly dependent upon simulations for data collection and research. Through analysis of various modeling techniques, the study produces a list and detailed rationale of suggested guidelines for timely and effective development, integration, and use of model ecosystems. Their findings demonstrate the importance of simplicity, openness, and resource and information sharing to support fields such as Industrial Ecology. Continue reading