Three cows graze in front of a biofuel plant that converts dung into natural gas

One company’s waste is another’s resource.

As the climate struggles to maintain equilibrium, the idea of a linear economy – one that depends on the continual extraction and conversion of raw materials into finished goods – is no longer viable. Landfills are now a last resort, giving way to a circular economy that is not only viable but scalable. Through this, goods are produced in a sustainable way, one where materials are recycled and reused whenever possible, and resources (raw materials, water, energy, etc.) are used sparingly to turn old into new.

The advantages of a circular economy are many. From an environmental standpoint, waste and greenhouse gases are reduced, recycling is systematized, and the dependence on raw materials is decreased. From an economic standpoint, a circular economy stimulates innovation and creates new opportunities for businesses.

Industrial symbiosis in action.

In 2021, the industrial symbiosis program was created with broad legislative support. It’s designed to create “valuable collaborative opportunities where the underutilized resources of one company may be used by another.”

Industrial symbiosis is broadly defined and includes waste, by-products, residues, energy and water. The idea is not new. Companies understand their bottom line and continually seek to minimize the expense of waste treatment and disposal. This program seeks to go beyond waste reduction by turning waste into a resource that benefits the producer and stimulates new business opportunities that support the circular economy.

This new program looks across the state to expand existing industrial symbiosis efforts, assist others that are on their way and support those still on the drawing board. While there are different strategies to help businesses find new uses for their waste, the goal is the same: to achieve a mutual benefit between businesses while reducing waste.

Resources

            About Washington

More detailed information on industrial symbiosis, and how it may help Washington businesses and communities is contained in our 2019 report to the legislature: Washington Industrial Waste Coordination (Industrial Symbiosis) Program Recommendations (PDF).

 

Capitalizing on new opportunities.

Businesses, public utilities and other organizations throughout Washington state are expanding existing technologies for the beneficial reuse of industrial waste, while others are starting new and innovative efforts:

    • Beta Hatch, Cashmere, WA – Applies waste heat from nearby businesses to grow meal worms for livestock feed.
    • Columbia Pulp, Starbuck, WA – Uses crop stubble to make recyclable food containers.
    • Cosmo Specialty Fibers, Cosmopolis, WA – Recognizes the value of its lignosulfonate (red liquor) waste, and is experiencing success in finding customers outside the state.
    • Public utilities – Specifically, wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs), are a longtime practitioner of industrial symbiosis. Whether its biosolids, reclaimed water, anaerobic digesters or waste heat, WWTPs are using this type of municipal waste for multiple benefits. Facility upgrades are an opportunity to invest in processes that achieve multiple benefits and better serve communities.

Industry highlight – Anaerobic digestion, which is the process of taking organic waste and converting it to reclaimed natural gas (RNG) and nutrients, has been in practice at Washington dairies for many years. DeRuyter and Sons Dairies (Yakima, WA) is a large example and smaller-scale digesters are operating in Whatcom County such as Edaleen and Vander Haak Farms.

 

Early Support

Commerce is funding new and exciting efforts through the first year of the program ranging from research and development to on-the-ground implementation:

    • Inland Empire Paper (Spokane), Qualterra (formerly NuPhY) (Pullman), and Washington State University are collaborating to improve soil health with biochar and fly ash as soil amendments to increase crop yields.
    • Washington State University is testing biochar waste from the Kettle Falls Power Generating Station as a filter medium to remove odorants from municipal compost.
    • The City of Pasco is exploring the beneficial reuse of food processing wastewater through an algae denitrification system that can reduce nitrate levels in wastewater while generating a value-added product.
    • Myno Carbon (Bainbridge Island) will not only create biochar and capture the biogas, but also explore the capture of CO2 using crushed basalt to create a liming agent beneficial to soil health.
    • Impact Bioenergy (Vashon Island) will deliver renewable natural gas (RNG) to a local food manufacturing plant and capture waste heat from the facility to manufacture certified organic dry fertilizer.

Critical Tools –. The Washington Materials Marketplace provides an on-line market for valuable used materials. The Marketplace connects in-state and out-of-state organizations as they explore new opportunities to transform waste materials into new products, or secure recycled material streams to reduce use of virgin feedstock.

The next industrial revolution.

Washington state is building a stronger circular economy – one that is sustainable, integrated, climate-friendly and profitable – by decoupling growth from the consumption of finite resources. Industrial symbiosis is one tool in a box using future forward ideas and applications, demonstrating that growth does not have to equal waste.

Got a question?

Rob Duff, Sustainable Business Development Director
Phone: 360-764-6511

Kirk Esmond – Sustainable Business Development Manager
Phone: 206-837-2622

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