Against the background of continuously increasing human consumption of natural resources and associated environmental impacts, the scientific field of industrial ecology has gained growing attention since the beginning of the 21st century. Inspired by the principles of the natural ecosystem, the goal is to use waste streams of one industrial process as input for other processes, minimizing the losses of substances to the environment. This idea of eco-industrial metabolism is extended by the circular economy framework focusing on aspects of product and material cycles, waste reduction, product lifetime extension, reuse and subsequent recycling. Recent research emphasizes the materials, energy, water, and emissions nexus, drawing attention to a broad range of environmental impacts including climate change, land and water stress, resource depletion, or human and eco-toxicity. This fosters the need for connecting concepts of circular economy and industrial symbiosis with methods from the field of life cycle impact assessment (LCIA). Technological developments such as the ongoing digitalization create new opportunities for industrial symbiosis and the circular economy by increasing material traceability or by providing life cycle information that is relevant for EoL treatment. However, the ecological benefits of these approaches regarding the reduction of environmental impacts often remain unclear and are not explicitly quantified. This research gap shall be addressed by the Special Issue on “Industrial Ecology Strategies: Environmental Impacts and Life Cycle Assessment”.
The Special Issue focuses on current research and innovative approaches aiming at assessing the environmental impacts of innovative circular economy and industrial ecology strategies. Contributions may address but are not restricted to the following aspects:
- Approaches and methods for assessing environmental impacts in the context of industrial symbiosis and circular economy;
- Efficiency measures and their environmental impacts considering the materials, energy, emissions nexus;
- Ecological analysis of digital innovations such as blockchain technology for increasing transparency and traceability along circular value chains;
- Case studies assessing the environmental footprint of circular economy strategies, including aspects of reuse (refurbishment, remanufacturing) and recycling;
- LCIA case studies of urban–industrial symbiosis and innovative concepts for exhaust energy and waste management;
- Trade-offs between mitigation of environmental emissions/impacts and economic benefits;
- Trade-offs between different impact categories such as climate change (GWP) and land or water stress, etc.;
- Effects of product reuse and lifetime extensions on environmental impacts.
For more information, please visit https://www.mdpi.com/journal/sustainability/special_issues/industrial_ecology_strategies