Sustainable development is often conceptualised as having three dimensions or pillars: environment, economy and society. In the last five years the National Industrial Symbiosis Programme (NISP) has delivered significant benefits to all three.
NISP has been operating across the UK since 2005 when it became the world’s first national programme and is at the forefront of industrial symbiosis thinking and practice in the UK and world.
NISP encourages businesses to incorporate the industrial symbiosis approach into everyday business practices; regard nothing as ‘waste’ but rather a new resource which can be adapted and used as a new input to another industrial process.
The programme is funded by the Government and membership is therefore FREE for all businesses regardless of size, sector or turnover. To date, NISP has more than 12,500 business members from all sectors and comprises companies of all sizes, although 90% are small and medium sized businesses and micros, as these are often the companies that derive the most benefit from the programme.
Since April 2005, NISP has helped its members to reduce the amount of business waste they send to landfill by 7 million tonnes and reduce their collective carbon emissions by 6 million tonnes.
On top of this, using the industrial symbiosis approach has enabled NISP members to generate £176 million in additional sales as a result of adding value to previously discarded or ignored by-products from their industrial or manufacturing processes.
The programme has also helped its 12,500 members to cut their costs across the board on disposal, storage, transport and purchasing to the tune of £156 million.
So how does it work? NISP identifies and facilitates the implementation of mutually profitable links between its member companies so that previously unused or discarded resources such as energy, water and materials from one are recovered, reprocessed and reused by others elsewhere in the industrial network.
Peter Laybourn, NISP Programme Director explains: “Many of our members don’t have the expertise or the people to identify ways to improve resource productivity, because they’re focusing very much on the day to day running of the business.
“NISP’s teams of Industrial Symbiosis Practitioners, the majority of whom come from industry backgrounds, are experienced facilitators and it is their extensive knowledge of resource stream capability, chemistry, extraction and reprocessing techniques and legislation that enables them to identify potential synergies between companies.”
All new NISP members are asked to provide information on the company resources they use as part of their everyday activities (haves) and those they require or buy in (want). Practitioners then input this data into NISP’s web based resource management system in order to analyse and identify any potential links.
Case Study 1: All puffed up with pasty power
NISP’s South West team cooked up an exciting synergy between two of its members that not only generated carbon savings of more than 6,500 tonnes, but also collectively saved the companies thousands of pounds.
Apetito Ltd is based in Trowbridge and is a leading European supplier of frozen food. In a drive to improve waste management on its site Apetito contacted NISP for help to identify an alternative disposal route for its pastry waste that was currently being sent to landfill.
Meanwhile, another NISP member, Andigestion, got in touch with the regional NISP team for assistance in sourcing new organic waste streams for use as input into its anaerobic digestion plant to generate electricity.
The NISP team fostered a link between the two organisations having identified that Andigestion would be an ideal outlet for the waste produced by Apetito.
This link has generated thousands of pounds in savings for both companies as well as diverting over 1,700 tonnes of waste from landfill each year and making over 6,500 tonnes in carbon reductions.
Case Study 2: A sackful of dram fine firewood
Diageo is a global manufacturer of famous alcoholic drinks across the world. They company receives thearomatics for its gin in hessian sacks which were going to landfillafter being emptied. The company asked NISP for assistance in finding a cheaper more sustainable alternative to landfill.
Maltwood is a new business start up based in Fife. It uses thestaves from old whisky barrels to make their “Dram fine firewood”.Maltwood was buying in hessian sacks to package the firewood it was selling.
The NISP team was able to establish that Diageo’s hessian sacks are clean and durable making them ideal for Maltwood to package its firewood in. NISP made the connectionbetween the two companies and it seemed like a straightforward match. However, Diageo was not immediately able to divert the sacksbecause they had been declared as waste on the PPC license. NISP consulted Scottish Environment Protection Agency who pragmatically stepped in and aided Diageo inre-categorising the sacks from a waste, to a by-product.
The sacks were directly comparable to others sold in the market place so Diageo was able to redefine them allowing them to start sending the sacks to Maltwood for their packaging. NISP also put these companiesin touch with Kibble; a social enterprise providing residential care, work experience and education to teenage boys. The boys at Kibble areemployed to chop the wood, prepare orders and package them in the sacks. This offers the boys invaluable work experience and businessawareness.
This synergy has saved Maltwood over £20,000 in packaging costs, which has helped them considerably as a new start company. Diageois also seeing cost benefits, as they no longer have to pay to dispose of the sacks to landfill.
NISP is delivered on a regional basis. To find out more visit www.nisp.org.uk