Scholarship and practice in industrial symbiosis: 1989–2014

Marian Chertow, Joo Young Park

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

57 Citations (Scopus)


Industrial symbiosis, a subfield of industrial ecology, engages traditionally separate industries and entities in a collaborative approach to resource sharing that benefits both the environment and the economy. This chapter examines the period 1989–2014 to “take stock” of industrial symbiosis. First, we look at the earliest days to discuss what inspired industrial symbiosis both in the scholarly literature and in practice. Next, we draw attention to certain dilemmas and sharpen the distinctions between industrial symbiosis and some related concepts such as eco-industrial parks and environmentally balanced industrial complexes. With regard to dissemination of industrial symbiosis ideas, we found that at the country level, China has now received the most attention in industrial symbiosis academic research and this continues to grow rapidly. The final section looks at both theory (conceptual knowledge largely from academia) and practice (on-the-ground experience of public, not-for-profit, and private organizations working to implement industrial symbiosis) as both are essential to industrial symbiosis. A bibliometric analysis of the scholarly work, capturing 391 articles indexed in Scopus and Web of Science for 20 years between 1995 and 2014, is used to define and track the types of articles, how the mix of articles has changed over time, and what the most popular journals are. Taking a closer look at the research literature, distinct themes are identified and discussed such as the scale of industrial symbiosis, whether industrial symbiosis is based on planning or self-organization, the role of social factors, and what is known about the actual performance of industrial symbiosis. To assess important issues with regard to practice, we compile a list of industrial symbiosis-related events from database searches of reports, media, and key consulting and business organizations and examine trends, mechanisms, and motivations of industrial symbiosis practice by surveying key practitioners and academics. Since 1989, there has been significant uptake of industrial symbiosis around the world as shown by the increasing number of journal articles and also events on the ground. Industrial symbiosis has become more geographically and institutionally diverse, as more organizations in more countries learn about the ideas and diffuse regionally specific versions. This presents additional opportunities to understand the phenomenon, but also makes the search to embrace a coherent framework more immediate.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTaking Stock of Industrial Ecology
PublisherSpringer International Publishing
Number of pages30
ISBN (Electronic)9783319205717
ISBN (Print)9783319205700
Publication statusPublished - 2015 Jan 1
Externally publishedYes


  • By-product reuse
  • Circular economy
  • Eco-industrial park
  • Industrial ecology
  • Industrial ecosystem

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance(all)
  • Business, Management and Accounting(all)
  • Engineering(all)


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