Taking waste out of industry

Kalundborg Symbiosis
Denmark (Kalundborg)

Revolutionary technology rarely looks the part. The steel chimneys and chemical storage silos of Kalundborg on the Danish island of Zealand could be any modern industrial zone from Brazil to the Baltic. But its everyday appearance actually hides a completely new way of looking at manufacturing.

Working on the principle that your waste material could be my raw material or power source, The Kalundborg Symbiosis operates as an enclosed industrial ecosystem. The complex gathers around the central energy source of the DONG Asnaes Power Station which, although coal-fired, is at the centre of an energy-sharing circuit that has allowed Kalundborg to reduce yearly CO2 emissions. Spare capacity and by-products are recycled within the complex and, where possible, outside. Organic waste from the Novozymes enzyme production facility is converted into fertiliser. Gypsum is a byproduct that can be used in building, created when the smoke is desulphurised and the sulphur reacts with a limestone suspense.

The result is a virtuous circle of interdependent industrial operations where human resources are also valued. Participants, workers and the local community are involved in planning decisions. Forward-thinking industrialists, social activists and economists alike hope that more industrial plants around the world won’t just look like Kalundborg, they will work like it, too.

Written by

Michael Hodges (29 September 2015)


Michael is a former British Magazine Writer of the Year and two times Columnist of the Year. He is a regular contributor to Wired, author of a social history of the AK47 and his cultural and travel writing appears in the Financial Times and New Statesman.

Project leader

Mette Skovbjerg, Head of Symbiosis Center

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