The West Midlands region, situated in the area around Birmingham, has been the focus of an Industrial Symbiosis implementation project led by the National Industrial Symbiosis Programme (NISP) in the UK. In this case, the NISP exploited the interest generated by the previous programme implemented in the Humber region (Case 5) and tried to repeat and improve the experience. The West Midlands is an industrial area that includes, among other industries, automotive, metal production, plastic and rubber and food processing companies.
Industrial Symbiosis implementation in West Midlands was triggered by the Midlands Environmental Business Communications (MEBC), a regional environmental business association. This association, influenced by the Humber region experience, decided to take up the challenge to implement a similar programme in the region and to reduce its environmental impact.
The discovery process started with the MEBC contacting the Business Council for Sustainable Development of the United Kingdom (BCSD-UK), the coordinator of the Humber region programme, in order to gather information on Industrial Symbiosis implementation process and benefits. After some preliminary meetings, MEBC agreed to lead and coordinate the Industrial Symbiosis implementation programme in the region, with support from BCSD-UK. As a first action, MEBC conducted a study to identify main stakeholders (companies, as well as public and research entities) for the programme and organised a half-day meeting to illustrate them its aim and scope and to start working on the identification of potential collaborations. After this meeting, the programme was officially launched and a project advisory board was created, chaired by a manager from one of the participating companies. At the same time, MEBC also started the creation of an IT tool in order to ease data gathering, management and sharing. Thanks to this tool and to further interactions among MEBC and local companies, several potential new synergies were identified, and a feasibility study was conducted for each of them.
The main precondition that allowed the start of the Industrial Symbiosis implementation programme in West Midlands was the fact that the coordinator of the initiative, the MEBC, was well established in the area and had already several connections and other companies’ trust. In addition, the whole project was planned to be highly interactive, involving participating companies from the very start of the activities, and the leadership of the advisory board guaranteed their full support and an open attitude towards potential collaborations. Companies also had familiarity, developed in previous experiences, with materials reuse and recycling. The programme did not only focus on exchanges identification, but also encouraged companies in preventing waste and improving efficiency, which gave it more credibility. Finally, the programme was financially supported by the RDA of West Midlands (Advantage West Midlands).
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