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Keywords:

  • case study;
  • circular economy;
  • industrial ecology (IE);
  • industrial symbiosis (IS);
  • urban symbiosis;
  • virgin material savings (VMS)

Summary

Innovative waste recycling through industrial processes such as industrial and urban symbiosis has long been practiced and recently received much attention in the field of industrial ecology, with researchers making efforts to identify key contributing factors to successful industrial symbiosis. By analyzing 88 sample recycling projects in 23 eco-towns in Japan, this article focuses on the factors of project scale, recycling boundary, and types of waste in relationship to environmental benefits and operational performance. The results showed that larger eco-towns achieved more savings of virgin materials and higher stability in operation. Large-scale projects tended to locate closer to the users of recycled products than did small-scale projects. For treating similar types of waste, projects producing recycled products for special users (e.g., feedstock to a blast furnace for iron production) tended to locate closer to the users than those not producing for special users. The type of waste had a strong effect on the savings of virgin materials and recycling boundaries, while local factors had significant impacts on operational performance. The results also showed that agglomeration did not significantly contribute to the environmental benefits or operational performance of eco-town projects. Another finding was that national agencies were helpful for facilitating cross-prefecture transportation and long-distance transaction of wastes. Implications of the findings are also discussed.