Industrial ecology for port zones

Interview with Mélodie Merenda, EnvIM Student 2014-2015, who did her professional thesis on industrial ecology

MélodieWhat is circular economy?

Circular Economy is an economic system of exchange and production which aims to increase the efficiency of the use of resources and to reduce the environmental impact of this use, at each step of the product’s life cycle. The implementation of Circular Economy is based on three main fields: consumers demand, producers supply and waste management. For each field of action, Circular Economy identifies adapted levers / tools to activate.

In France, the concepts of Circular Economy and Industrial Ecology (innovative governance organizational scheme that fosters industrial symbiosis) are considered as different. At the scale of an industrial park or a delimited territory, Industrial Ecology appears to be the right tool to disseminate the concept of circularity. Industrial Ecology can reveal possibilities of energy and material exchanges to reinforce and to impulse new cooperation dynamics between actors located on a same territory.

circular economy

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What are the drivers / main issues of circular economy?

Circular economy offers the opportunity to realize economic benefits through reduction of raw material and energy consumption through reuse solutions. It can also lead to new cooperation models, linking actors with different competencies and through mutualization, substitution symbiosis and industrial synergies. It can reinforce the links with the local economic and their territorial and social anchoring, stimulating business models based on use rather than property

But some major brakes exist. First, there is no common assessment tools of the circular economy benefits, companies are facing difficulties in integrating positive externalities related to it in their business models. Then, regulation can represent a brake, concerning for instance the waste status, which makes it more difficult to valorize. Finally, circular economy implies to apply organizational changes that can be considered as huge constraints by companies.

Why ports are good application zones for industrial ecology?

Those new economic models are based on exchanges between stakeholders (public and private sectors, port authorities and local communities) in order to co-construct balanced, shared and sustainable solutions.

Industrial Port Zones are considered as strategic territories to deploy Circular Economy according to expert research workers. In order to move towards energy transition, Industrial Port Zones (IPZs) have to innovate and adapt themselves to come out of the fossil fuel-based logic. This transition involves experimentations of new organization, new type of governance and cooperation between actors.

Those areas also gather several types of industries (steel industries, petrochemicals, chemistry, automobile, aerospatial, etc.) and a complex and dense network of activities with a variety of flows, products, services exchanges, that are extremely favorable for industrial symbiosis development. Circular Economy can also be a true differentiation strategy for ports while proposing alternative and innovative services in a context of growing international competitiveness, such as shared utilities, energy and water networks. Last but not least, IPZs have sufficient land reserves, which can boost eco-industrial parks implementation.

Tangier port

Tangier port

For my thesis, I studied especially the Tangier Tetouan industrial area (North of Morocco). Thus, I identified the key stakeholders to understand the way the governance works. It appeared that the local governance caused an important segmentation of the territory. Indeed, the region is made of a multitude of sector-specific industrial zones, but without inter-connections. The multitude of disconnected actors and the lack of a single contact person made the identification of inter-relationships among local stakeholders very difficult to analyze. There is neither interaction nor communication, between the Port Authority, responsible for the management of the Port complex, and the Tangier Free Zone, responsible for management of the whole regional industrial platform

zone portuaire tanger

Based on the study of the main brakes identified regarding Industrial Ecology deployment, we identified different type of levers to improve the local governance in the Tangier-Tetouan region:

  • Regulatory : changing the status of waste, Developing environmental certification or regulating new jobs or activities
  • Economical : abolishment of taxes for waste exports from free trade zones, subsidies ofr new jobs and activities
  • Organizational : Establishing, for instance, a committee gathering the different stakeholders of the Port complex and of the industrial platform to improve regional communication and foster inter-connection, or improving the management of resources
  • Technical : to set up waste and wastewater treatment plants, pooling different resources and infrastructures.


What does this professional thesis, and more generally, EnvIM program, brought to your professional goals?

My professional thesis and the EnvIM program helped me to address practical and technical projects. Based on fieldtrips and professional experts’ interventions, the post master’s program is the perfect degree to acquire engineering and managerial skills related to sustainable development issues. Eventually, the 6-month work experience and the professional thesis we have to write for the company allowed us to get to know and be aware of its operational constraints.