Industrial Symbiosis Formally Recognized – and Legislated – by the EU as an Effective Way to Help Manage the Region’s Wastes

Industrial Symbiosis Formally Recognized – and Legislated – by the EU as an Effective Way to Help Manage the Region’s Wastes


On 14th June 2018 a number of legislative amendments focussing on waste management (loosely referred to as the Circular Economy package) were announced in the Official Journal of the European Union. The amendments recognised industrial symbiosis as an effective means of helping to manage the EU’s wastes in a sustainable fashion, and as a way of helping meet specific EU waste management directives.

The preamble to the revised environmental directive included the following points:

  • “Waste management in the [EU] should be improved and transformed into sustainable material management, with a view to protecting, preserving and improving the quality of the environment, protecting human health, ensuring prudent, efficient and rational utilisation of natural resources, promoting the principles of the circular economy, enhancing the use of renewable energy, increasing energy efficiency, reducing the dependence of the Union on imported resources, providing new economic opportunities and contributing to long-term competitiveness. In order to make the economy truly circular, it is necessary to take additional measures on sustainable production and consumption, by focusing on the whole life cycle of products in a way that preserves resources and closes the loop. The more efficient use of resources would also bring substantial net savings for Union businesses, public authorities and consumers, while reducing total annual greenhouse gas emissions.”


  • “Improving the efficiency of resource use and ensuring that waste is valued as a resource … can facilitate the transition to more sustainable material management and to a circular economy model. That transition should contribute to the smart, sustainable and inclusive growth goals set out in the Europe 2020 strategy and create important opportunities for local economies and stakeholders, while helping to increase synergies between the circular economy and energy, climate, agriculture, industry and research policies as well as bringing benefits to the environment in terms of greenhouse gas emission savings and to the economy.”

Related to industrial symbiosis itself, the revision states:

“In order to promote sustainable use of resources and industrial symbiosis, Member States should take appropriate measures to facilitate the recognition as a by-product of a substance or an object resulting from a production process the primary aim of which is not the production of that substance or object if the harmonised conditions established at Union level are respected. The Commission should be empowered to adopt implementing acts in order to establish detailed criteria on the application of the by-product status, prioritising replicable practices of industrial symbiosis.”

And later continuing its support of industrial symbiosis:

“… When adopting … implementing acts, the Commission shall take as a starting point the most stringent and environmentally protective of any criteria adopted by Member States … and shall prioritise replicable practices of industrial symbiosis in the development of the detailed criteria…”


Canada is the 31st nation to implement a National Industrial Symbiosis Program (NISP) to realize the many business and environmental benefits that industrial symbiosis can provide. The launch of NISP Canada was made possible through the provision of funds by all three levels of government – federally through Western Economic Diversification; provincially through the BC Innovation Council and the BC Ministries of Agriculture and Energy; and at the municipal level by Metro Vancouver, and the Cities of Edmonton, New Westminster, and Surrey.

The widespread use of NISP globally, the initial successes realized by Phase I of the NISP Canada initiative, and the latest EU endorsement all build a compelling case for the provision of additional government investment to move beyond the current phase of NISP Canada to create a multi-year, multi-location programme that harvests the full economic and environmental opportunity of this approach for Canada.