Industrial Symbiosis in China: A Case Study of the Guitang Group


  • Qinghua ZHU,

    1. An associate professor in the School of Management at Dalian University of Technology, People's Republic of China. She received her bachelor's and master's degrees in electrical engineering and her Ph.D. in systems engineering. Her main research interest is integrated green supply chain management and environmental management systems. She interviewed company and city officials in June of 2004
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  • Ernest A. LOWE,

    Corresponding author
    1. Director of Indigo Development. He is the author of The Eco-Industrial Park Handbook for Developing Countries and co-author of Discovering Industrial Ecology. He is co-author of a Chinese language handbook revision, Industrial Ecology and Eco-Industrial Parks. He visited the Guitang Group's complex in April 2001 to review the eco-chains described in this article. 42 Journal of Industrial Ecology
      Indigo Development, 2815 Spring Creek Drive, Santa Rosa, CA 95405 USA
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  • Yuan-an WEI,

    1. Vice president of Academic Affairs at Guangxi University, as well as the director of the Sugar Research Institute at the University. He received his Ph.D. in organic chemistry, is a principal investigator at the Guangxi Key Laboratory for Subtropical Bioresource Conservation and Utilization at Guangxi University, and serves on a technical advisory committee for the Guitang plant and has discussed these issues with plant leaders on a number of occasions.
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  • Donald BARNES

    1. Visiting professor of Chemistry at Guangxi University. He retired early from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency after a 22-year career, which included directing the Agency's Science Advisory Board and participating in several of the Agency's industrial ecology and “alternative futures” activities. He visited the Guitang plant in late 2004 and had subsequent conversations with the Vice Director of the facility.
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Indigo Development, 2815 Spring Creek Drive, Santa Rosa, CA 95405 USA


The Guitang Group (GG), which operates one of China's largest sugar refineries, has been developing and implementing an internal and external industrial symbiosis strategy for more than four decades. The GG first invested in developing its own collection of downstream companies to utilize nearly all byproducts of sugar production. This strategy has generated new revenues and reduced environmental emissions and disposal costs, while simultaneously improving the quality of sugar.

Internally, the GG's complex consists of interlinked production of sugar, alcohol, cement, compound fertilizer, and paper and includes recycling and reuse. Externally, the GG has established a strong customer base as a result of its product quality, has worked to maintain and expand its supply base through technological and economic incentives to farmers (and even to competitors), and has had to react to a strong government presence that fundamentally affects its operations.

Operations to date support some of the fundamental concepts of industrial symbiosis. Significant challenges exist, though, if the company is to continue to prosper in the volatile globalized sugar market.