Circular economy and industrial symbiosis : Premises and GHG balance sheet

The Centre de transfert technologique en écologie industrielle (CTTÉI), Synergie Économique Laurentides, members of the Communauté Synergie Québec, the Association française ORÉE and the MRC de Sept-Rivières were at the Colloque de gestion des matières résiduelles organized by Réseau Environnement and presented by RECYC-QUÉBEC and Éco Entreprises Québec on September 20.

It was with some excitement and in the heat of autumn that their panel closed the 2017 edition of the Colloquium.


Several industrial symbioses have emerged in Quebec in recent years. Other territories, such as the MRC de Sept-Rivières, are also involved in concerted action to animate more circular and sustainable networks of organizations. Through the links they forge between the players in value chains, symbioses aim to optimize resource management in the territories. Moreover, their success is based on the commitment of participants, which is strongly influenced by the potential spinoffs and benefits ... and their measurement.

The need for an effective measurement tool is being experienced on both sides of the Atlantic, as evidenced by the collaboration between ORÉE, the CTTÉI and symbiosis carriers in Quebec.

For businesses and territories, the quantification of gains helps in decision making. Performance measurements are essential, both for reporting to donors and for defining the avenues to be favoured to ensure the sustainability of symbioses. Experience shows, however, that this exercise is hampered by a number of obstacles: variety of actors with divergent interests, confidentiality issues, lack of reliable data and common indicators, undeveloped calculation methods, etc.


Moderated by Jennifer Pinna, Project industrial symbiosis Manager at CTTÉI, this panel provided a discussion - and solutions! - in a very relaxed panel format. Speakers testified to the efforts made to establish relevant indicators and their importance in the evolution of projects.

Nathalie Boyer, General Delegate of ORÉE, began by presenting her platform ELIPSEThe project is the result of 2 years of co-construction with researchers and field experts in symbiosis. With its 3 principles, 9 objectives and 61 indicators, it is also a monitoring tool for stakeholders supporting industrial and territorial ecology approaches. It is worth noting that Ms. Boyer's presence at this event was made possible thanks to the financial participation of the Ministry of International Relations and Francophonie.


In 2015, the CTTÉI and the Communauté Synergie Québec were asked to participate in the development of ELIPSE. Several stakeholders and facilitators tested and experimented with the tool in industrial symbiosis order to make recommendations. At the end of this exercise, the idea of developing a Quebec adaptation of ELIPSE was born.


Julien Beaulieu, a college researcher at CTTÉI continued with life cycle assessment as a tool for evaluating synergies. The tool compares supply scenarios, processes and by-product disposal methods with and without synergies. Various databases were used to create this tool, which is exclusive to members of the Synergie Québec Community. The calculator can be used as a decision support tool or to calculate spinoffs.

In particular, it could be used to facilitate accountability within the framework of the financial assistance granted by RECYC-QUÉBEC "Transition to the circular economy", component 3 of the Performance of Industries, Businesses and Institutions (ICI) program in Residual Materials Management (RRM).


Excel tools, formulas and databases are a joy for researchers and developers! In the field, however, industrial symbiosis facilitators must communicate the benefits, rally companies and... popularize the benefits of synergies in a very concrete manner.

Karine Bourgeois, the new General Manager of SYNERGIE ÉCONOMIQUE LAURENTIDES, took part in the exercise by measuring the GHG impact of 4 synergies in different sectors of activity. Agricultural and maple syrup plastics, wood, etc. The analysis reveals that it is above all the avoided production of virgin materials that significantly reduces GHG emissions. Transport, end-of-life management and energy often come last in the impact factors.

But be careful! These results should not be generalized and applied to all synergies. The tool uses specific data for each material, each type of energy, each location, thus providing nuanced and personalized results.

Armed with such a tool, the symbiosis players will be able to avoid false good ideas and, above all, help companies evaluate their GHG gains and take ownership of the circular economy!