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Kalundborg Symbiosis: six decades of a circular approach to production

Description: 

Kalundborg Symbiosis is a partnership between nine public and private companies in Kalundborg, Denmark. Since 1972, these partners have developed the world's first industrial symbiosis with a circular approach to production.

The main principle is that a residue from one company becomes a resource at another, benefiting both the environment and the economy. Such symbiosis creates growth in the local area and supports the companies' CSR efforts and climate change mitigation. The partners of Kalundborg Symbiosis have worked together since the 1960's, resulting in a collaborative approach and openness to new symbiosis opportunities. The first symbiotic exchange took place in 1972.

By working together and exchanging material, water, and energy streams between the partners, Kalundborg Symbiosis increases resilience and economic gains, while reducing the environmental impact and expenses. Building a functioning industrial symbiosis is not just about working together for the sake of each other and the environment, but a continual search for a better way of doing business. Projects completed over the years range from algae production facilities to bio-ethanol production, with some projects already being implemented at larger scales. The diagram below shows how Kalundborg's industrial symbiosis functions in practice:

Kalundborg diagram

Main results: 

Kalundborg Symbiosis has evolved organically over the past six decades, with joint projects being created when the business case and collaboration showed promise. These do however end when the business case ceases to be profitable. Every year the partners benefit from:

  • Bottom-line savings of 24 million €
  • 14 million € in socio-economic savings
  • 635,000 tons of CO2
  • 3,6 million m3 water
  • 100 GWh of energy
  • 87,000 tons of materials