The Institute for Sustainable Futures (ISF) at the University of Technology, Sydney – together with research partners from the Centre for Sustainable Resource Processing (Curtin University of Technology), the University of Melbourne and RMIT University – received a Smart Water Fund grant to conduct a study to identify, evaluate and recommend industrial ecology opportunities in Melbourne.
Simply put, industrial ecology is the process of taking one company’s waste products for reuse by another. By implementing systems that focus on the treatment and reuse of waste by-products for beneficial uses in other applications, industrial ecology seeks to reduce the impact of industrial processes on the environment.
By investigating how industry can become more resource efficient, industrial ecology projects can have significant environmental benefits as well as offering reduced water and trade waste costs for business.
After conducting a comprehensive literature review and a number of stakeholder workshops, ISF developed a tool to identify and evaluate potential sites in Melbourne that offer industrial ecology opportunities. ISF then shortlisted of priority sites suitable for further investigation.
The Fishermans Bend precinct in Port Melbourne was identified as a priority site for demonstrating industrial ecology and became the subject of an in depth scoping study. With a number of large manufacturing companies including Kraft, Boral, Symex, Boeing, Holden, Crema, Independent Cement and Herald & Weekly Times in the area, ISF developed a site water balance to determine the sources and potential reuse opportunities of wastewater. From this data a number of potential industrial ecology scenarios were identified.
These scenarios offered a range of wastewater treatment options and reuse opportunities on a broad precinct-wide scale.
ISF Research Director, Dr Damien Giurco says that the results of the Port Melbourne scoping study provide a detailed opportunity for the local industry to make significant water savings.
“While further investigation of the costs and benefits of this industrial ecology opportunity is required, the businesses involved in the study now have a model for collaboration that can extend beyond water, to the use of energy and other resources,” he said.
“Efficiency will become an increasing high priority as water and energy costs increase, however many efficiency gains can already be realised cheaply on-site. Industrial ecology offers the potential to realise additional benefits across the whole precinct as well as encouraging more collaboration between industries,” Dr Giurco said.
The project has also led to the formation of a Port Melbourne Industrial Ecology Working Group, which aims to further identify and develop opportunities. It brings together the participating companies, South East Water, the EPA and Sustainability Victoria and a ‘Sustainability Covenant’ is currently being developed, and negotiation on the governance structure is currently underway.