Resource metabolism, which refers to the consumption and transformation of natural material resources into products and wastes, is less understood in the context of regional and industrial ecosystems. This becomes more important when severe environmental challenges from rapid economic growth, urbanization, and industrialization are emerging around the world. Moreover, developing countries face higher environmental consequences due to low institutional capacity and inefficient use of natural resources. Thus, to enhance the sustainable development strategies which aim at meeting 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a clear understanding of resource metabolism in local, national and regional ecosystems is highly required. Moreover, assisting environmental policy-makers in designing a transition towards higher material and environmental efficiency is urgently required and could be the first step towards economic dematerialization and decarbonization - all using the concepts and tools of industrial ecology (IE).
The main objective of this dissertation is to develop and apply IE tools at two different levels of analysis comprising (i) regional ecosystems and (ii) industrial ecosystems. The innovative application of various industrial ecology tools is expected to provide efficient resource transformation pathways towards sustainable economic and eco-industrial development. The aim also remains to contribute to the field of industrial ecology thereby extending its application to regions and ecosystems rarely studied before. Moreover, the existing economic growth trajectory of typical developing economies will be analyzed in-depth, comparative analyses will be made with regional industrialized economies, and future sustainability pathways will be developed and evaluated. These research goals at the “regional ecosystem” level will be complemented by findings at the “industrial ecosystem” level whereby multiple industrial symbiosis projects will be analyzed and industrial eco-efficiency will be measured. The integrated outcomes of both ecosystem levels will then be synthesized to produce meaningful policy instruments necessary for a sustainable economic and eco-industrial transition.
University of Ulsan