Bipartisan Leadership Delivers Policy Breakthroughs
Industrial symbiosis converts waste into economic value and slashes pollution
In 2021, Washington State adopted the nation's first industrial symbiosis program. In 2022, legislators ramped up funding for the program and appropriated $500,000 to launch a new agriculture symbiosis initiative.
Industrial symbiosis (IS) is a ground-breaking, triple-bottom-line approach to economic development, where one industry’s waste – energy, water, or materials – becomes another industry’s valued resource.
The concept of IS was born in Kalundborg and evolved over several decades into a network of over a dozen major facilities capturing and reusing waste resources. Today, this city of only 17,000 residents generates $28 million in annual economic value, saves nearly a billion gallons of water annually, and cuts climate pollution by over 600,000 tons a year.
CSI helped bring IS to the attention of over two dozen bipartisan Washington state lawmakers in 2017, 2018, and 2019 through tours of Kalundborg, Denmark, put on by our partner i-SUSTAIN and made possible with the generous support of the Scan Design Foundation.
Since 2017, CSI has worked with the legislature to stand up this new IS program. In 2018, the State commissioned a CSI-produced guide to industrial symbiosis for economic development efforts in Raymond, WA. In 2019, CSI contributed to a state-commissioned study of IS options, which in turn led to the unanimous passage of the new program in 2020 – only to have it vetoed in the face of plummeting state revenues in the early days of the pandemic. But legislators returned in 2021 to pass SB 5345, which was signed by the governor and launched the new IS program at the Department of Commerce.
Less than a year after CSI worked with bipartisan legislators to establish the nation’s first Industrial Symbiosis program, we notched another win for Clean Industry by increasing state investment in the program significantly. Their initial investment in 2021 was $500,000, and in 2022 they increased that to over $2 million in ongoing funding for each future biennium!
In addition, CSI proposed and bipartisan legislators stepped up to secure $500,000 in the 2022 Washington State supplemental budget to launch a new Agricultural Symbiosis (Ag Symbiosis) initiative. Ag Symbiosis – a concept we helped import from Denmark – converts waste into economic value for agriculture producers and processors, conserves valuable resources, and slashes pollution. Washington now has an opportunity to pioneer this approach to generating higher value, creating good new jobs, and securing sustainability in our agricultural economy.
This funding will enable CSI to work with Washington State University to develop recommendations for standing up a first-of-its-kind Ag Symbiosis initiative designed to sustain Washington’s agriculture economy, and the land and water it depends on.
SB 5345’s prime sponsor, Sen. Sharon Brown, R-Kennewick, and her bi-partisan colleagues were inspired by Denmark's example and have worked across party lines, supported by CSI, to pass this new law.
CSI is particularly excited at the potential for IS to help the manufacturing sector, which Bill Gates recently called one of the most challenging sectors to decarbonize. The Cities of Pasco and Spokane were among the bill’s supporters and are actively exploring IS possibilities now with CSI.
“Embracing industrial symbiosis in Washington – especially on a completely bipartisan basis – represents much more than a new state program. It represents a step away from the age-old ‘or’ approach to economic development, where policies choose which values win at the expense of others. SB 5345 is a big step towards the ‘and’ approach, where our investments and policies are built to advance the interests that matter to all of us: good jobs and a healthy environment and strong communities. Applying the ‘and’ lens to our policies is a great way to build a strong future that includes all of us.”
CSI's Director of Strategic Initiatives
As more communities embrace this approach, with support from the new program at the WA Department of Commerce, CSI is confident other parts of the country will follow suit, leaving behind outdated notions that job creation, community welfare, and environmental sustainability are mutually exclusive.
CSI partnered with Decarb Connect, a British firm devoted to helping companies decarbonize in particularly challenging sectors. Listen to a podcast of Rhys' conversation about bringing industrial symbiosis to the US.