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Eco-industrial system analysis

Modern society experiences increasing pressures on natural resources, due to increases in population and demand for goods and services, to increasing levels of production and consumption, and to production systems that are sustained by inefficient resource flows leading to waste problems and environmental deterioration.

The research unit for eco-industrial system analysis focusses on sustainability analyses of community activities across sectors,  with special emphasis on mitigating environmental degradation by closing unsustainable leakages in resource flows in the human-natural system, as well as effects of climate change. Analyses and methods for improving resource efficiency and flow circularity (using Network Analysis and  LCA with extended system boundaries) as well as risk and impact assessments are developed.

EISA is based on the hypotheses that:

  1. Sustainable use of resources within future human systems can be achieved by creating incentives to decrease resource depletion, (i.e. restore and maintain ecosystem services) by increasing the recirculation of renewable and non-renewable resources and by optimizing and reducing transportation of goods and people.
  2. The application of a system perspective allows analyzing and identifying critical resource flows and risks for ecosystems and human health, providing scientific support for improved spatial planning, management of natural resources and waste, regulation of production systems, waste disposal and transportation at appropriate scales.

EISA will support the development of design-oriented, inter-industry strategies for resource conservation at the local community level that emphasize avoidance of waste products and improvement of recycling. The aim is to support a development towards more mature industrial systems that exhibit increasingly cyclical resource-use patterns analogous to those observed in the natural system.

Scientific challenges are related to the definition and delimitation of sustainable eco-industrial resource flow systems at appropriate scales, to the analysis of changes in societal pressures as response to change in resource flows, and to the development of reliable and theoretically consistent indicators of environmental performance of eco-industrial systems. Moreover, it is important to explore how industries can provide environmental restoration as a service to society, by means of new and improved resource flows including their spatial and temporal patterns (energy, materials, and pollutants).

The research activities address the societal concerns over increasing resource scarcity and environmental degradation; such issues are closely linked but often dealt with in separate academic literature and disciplinary fields. The research unit supports the strategic European and national policy agenda to increase the efficiency with which natural resources are used and recycled, and provides analysis of the environmental impact of green technologies at all levels (from household to global). Hereby it also develops new knowledge and methods to support the emission inventories.

 


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