Application of Industrial Ecology Concepts in Solar Energy Heat Systems in Mexico
Abstract: The increased understanding of the growing environmental harm linked to today's throughput industry reaches politics and the general public more and more. This study objects to increase resource use of materials and reduce the associated environmental impact. It is being conducted in the solar energy sector of the middle-income country, Mexico, on the basis of an underlying sample company. The chosen concept to achieve this goal is with Industrial Ecology, which combines several other approaches like an umbrella, far-reaching and represents an alternative to counteract the problems today´s and future generations are facing. Application-based approaches like Circular Economy, Waste Management, Loop Closing, and Industrial Symbiosis are taken into consideration to reduce the use of virgin materials and lessen the environmental impact of industrial activities in the middle-income country Mexico. Existing definitions and provided possibilities of Industrial Ecology and its included approaches were studied to set the base of the investigations together with a literature review of the manufacturing and the importance of small and medium-sized companies in Mexico. Primary data collection regarding company-specific information and their procedures were carried out as follows; after the preparation of the plans and schemes for the different areas of the company's value chain, the internal processes, the material flow, as well as the transportation were examined in more detail. Together with interviews of the company's managers, plans were verified and potentials for improvement towards sustainable development were identified. Using the previously acquired information of the considered approaches of IE, development opportunities in all areas of the value chain as well as the external collaboration possibilities could now be developed. The results show that the emissions of the example company mainly arise in the production of hot water storage tanks and solar collector frames, The implementation of the measures could also lead to more efficient use of materials, improved use of infrastructure, and reveals great potential of improvements in particular in industrial symbiosis. There are various opportunities to achieve environmental goals through new collaboration and networking. Improvements in the use of available materials, the recycling policy, as well as the transport of products and residues to and from the installation site could be achieved for the sample company. By demonstrating external cooperation opportunities such as transport or service sharing and their benefits to the participating companies, it has been shown that it would be possible to create an innovative and sustainable competitive advantage and to positively influence the financing pattern even for middle-income countries. The outcomes of the study show that with IE and the associated application-based approaches it is also practically possible to achieve further development of companies towards sustainable production and development. The implementation of the concepts of IE known from literature is generally more complicated in practice than it is described in theory. Also, because literature just give a rough picture of how such systems should look like but they do not provide any specific details. Nevertheless, it has been shown that it is also feasible in the case of middle-income countries to establish and organize themselves sustainably as a company for the future. In addition to the internal optimization measures of the business, also the exploration of the external possibilities of Industrial Symbiosis and collaboration are recommended.
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