The idea that economic development and environmental respect are diametrically opposed in every way could be seriously called into question. These two aims today work in tandem to provide a sustainable response to the resource challenge, and eco-parks are an apt illustration of this.
This new type of eco-industrial platform is designed around three key principles. The first principle is regional and local planning, using new construction methods, new materials and new transport methods that are eco-friendly. Environmental management is the second principle, aimed at limiting the ecological impacts of the site in question through the promotion of low-pollution industrial processes and the avoidance of soil contamination. Lastly, industrial and regional ecology spearheads eco-park design, taking inspiration from how natural ecosystems work: one party’s waste becomes another’s resource. The close proximity of the companies thus effectively allows a spirit of emulation and partnership to emerge, which encourages them to collaborate with one another, for example in the energy field.
Eco-parks are seeing specific growth in areas ready for reindustrialization. This is the case of the Agora eco-hub, a unique project in terms of its size and its diversity, built on former industrial land in Noyelles-Godault in the Pas-de-Calais region (France). A foundry processing non-ferrous metals owned by Metaleurop Nord had been razed to the ground after 100 years of activity. After being remediated, the location was gradually converted into a hub dedicated to waste recovery as well as collecting, transporting and maintenance. Various companies set up there, including a cable recycling center, a sorting center for ordinary industrial waste and a recovering unit for contaminated soils.
The Agora eco-hub in Noyelles-Godault (France) © SUEZ ENVIRONNEMENT / MH productions / Philippe Mencia
Such a pool of companies promotes innovation, with specifically dedicated laboratories often incorporated into these parks. This is the case of the SCIP (Shanghai Chemical Industrial Park) Water Research Center in China, which conducts research into the treatment and management of wastewater and other hazardous waste from petrochemical industries. The Greater Narbonne eco-hub (France) whose design, construction and operation was entrusted to SUEZ ENVIRONNEMENT (SITA) is scheduled for completion in spring 2017, and already plans to create a research hub. In association with Greater Narbonne and INRA Narbonne, SUEZ ENVIRONNEMENT, through its International Center For Water And Environmental Research (CIRSEE), will conduct an R&D project on dry methanization technology, using pilot modules installed on-site. In the long term, this partnership will allow the creation of new recovery processes for bio-waste via selective collection from major producers.
By establishing a model of industrial business development that respects the environment, eco-hubs or eco-parks are a sustainable response to a new sustainable economic form of dynamism.