What we can learn from Denmark’s near-zero-waste wonder

Read the full story in GreenBiz.

This article first appeared at Ensia.

When we look closely at systems in nature — coral reefs or rainforests, for instance — we see something we don’t often see in human systems: mutually beneficial relationships and energy flows among the various elements, such as air, water, rocks, soil, and plant and animal life. If we emulate these relationships in our cities and in our industrial infrastructure, we can vastly improve the sustainability of natural resources and energy use.

That’s exactly what the municipality of Kalundborg, 64 miles west of Copenhagen, is doing. In fact, for over 50 years, Kalundborg has been home to the first — and still the most advanced — example of this concept: the Kalundborg Symbiosis. Anchored originally by a power and district heating plant, this innovative industrial complex has grown to include some large and profitable enterprises, including the biggest oil refinery in the Baltic Region; an insulin-producing plant with 2,700 employees; factories making enzymes for use in everything from bioenergy to textiles, and gypsum for lightweight building materials; and the largest sewage treatment plant in northern Europe. Heat, water and a host of other resources that would otherwise be treated as waste supply some of the energy and many of the feedstocks to these operations and to the surrounding municipality, including farms.

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