Resource Efficiency and the Circular Economy

Waste is not rubbish; in the right hands, it can be a valuable resource.

Gardeners refer to weeds as plants in the wrong location. We challenge you to think of 'rubbish' in the same way; a resource that's in the wrong place! Everything we do impacts on our environment and on the quality of life for future generations. This is particularly true of how we manage resources which, even when treated as waste, are valuable. Recycling can be cheaper than sending to landfill. Reducing or reusing can increase savings further.

“A regenerative economic model – the circular economy – is starting to help companies create more value while reducing their dependence on scarce resources.”
McKinsey Quarterly, Feb 2014.

A circular economy focuses on the economics and logistics of turning products into materials – not just the other way around. It requires new design approaches that allow several cycles of disassembly and reuse, improved relationships with customers and collaboration between businesses across the supply chain. A daunting prospect for small businesses but one that is currently embraced by businesses manufacturing consumer goods and industrial equipment.

What is Industrial Symbiosis?

Realising the value of wasted resources, and stepping towards circularity, can be successfully achieved through Industrial Symbiosis (IS). As a systems approach to a more sustainable and integrated industrial economy it identifies business opportunities to improve resource utilisation - materials, energy, water, capacity, expertise, assets etc. With facilitated IS wasted resources from one organisation becoming material inputs for another, often in a completely different sector.

Industrial Symbiosis: Improving productivity through efficient resource management.

Our IS service, has helped over 1400 businesses embrace IS. Successful synergies rely on the willingness of businesses to engage in the process, collaborate with others and engage with experts who bring innovative and sustainable solutions. Applied IS results in better use of resources, cost savings, additional sales and reduced environmental impact.

Industrial Symbiosis workshop speakers - 23rd September 2014


Any Northern Ireland company can engage in the service but IS works equally well on a regional or business sector basis. Examples include Belfast Harbour Estate, plastics processors through the Northern Ireland Polymers Association and with technology providers such as energy from biomass. Participating in the IS service has helped Northern Ireland businesses deliver real savings of £9.5m and additional sales of £14.6m.

Read more information about Industrial Symbiosis in our guide Industrial Symbiosis: Improving productivity through efficient resource management. (PDF)