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Capacity building and resource exchange Kwinana industries – A Western Australian contribution to industrial ecology: Examining mechanisms for Sustainable Industrial Development

Verstegen, P. (2003) Capacity building and resource exchange Kwinana industries – A Western Australian contribution to industrial ecology: Examining mechanisms for Sustainable Industrial Development. In: International Sustainability Conference, 17 - 19 September, Fremantle, Western Australia

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The sustainability of Western Australia’s economy, society and environment is fundamentally affected by industrial metabolism and associated induced resource flows. Several indicators of Australia’s resource economy suggest that massive dematerialisation, decarbonisation, and detoxification of industrial material flows will need to begin in the near future if the resource economy is to become sustainable in the longer term.

The paper examines industrial ecology in its potential to inform and deliver the necessary restructuring of Australia’s industrial metabolism along a sustainable trajectory of development. In this sense, the Kwinana industrial area in Western Australia is recognised as an internationally significant example of industrial symbioses. Contributions to industrial efficiency have occurred through the evolutionary development of a complex resource exchange network involving at least 28 heavy industries in the Kwinana industrial strip. The Kwinana resource exchange network is compared with a well documented though smaller example of industrial symbioses involving 8 industries in Kalundborg, Denmark.

Industrial ecology in its manifestation as industrial synergy is critiqued in its capacity to provide a platform for sustainable industrial development. The establishment of resource exchange networks among industrial firms has contributed significantly to energy and resource efficiency at the industrial firm or estate level, however the Jevons’ Paradox informs that while component efficiency may be a characteristic of a sustainable materials economy, it does not provide a means to get there. Industrial synergy in this sense may in fact promote unsustainable path dependant development, and is an inadequate vehicle for the delivery of industrial sustainability outcomes at the broader level of industrial metabolism. Demand-side management at various stages of the industrial materials economy is briefly explored as a policy option addressing overall system efficiency while also driving the desirable efficiency of industrial metabolic components such as the industrial firm.

In advocating industrial symbioses, the ecological metaphor employed by industrial ecologists is largely informed by a reductionist and mechanistic understanding of isolated components of natural systems. This paper explores a deeper more holistic understanding of the organisation and development of ecological systems, drawing particularly from the self-organising system models described by Gaian ecology. The ecological metaphor in this reviewed and expanded sense is applied to the organisational system dynamics of industrial economics and development institutions, informing a potentially more robust model for the sustainable development of industrial systems.

The region of Kwinana -Rockingham is referred to as a significant evolving example of institutional and organisational ecology among industrial development stakeholders. Cooperation, information transfer and capacity building between industry, community, and the public sector represents a more powerful articulation of industrial ecology, and potentially provides a powerful vehicle for the delivery of industrial sustainability outcomes on a regional and regulatory level. A collaborative and ecological industrial development process allowing broad participation and emphasising the development of human capital is suggested as a significant and pragmatic contribution to the broader industrial sustainability agenda.

Item Type: Conference Paper
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Institute for Sustainability and Technology Policy
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