This article is free in this issue of the Journal of Industrial

Industrial ecology has emerged as a key strategy for improving environmental conditions. A central element of industrial ecology is the concept of closing the loop in material use (cycling) by directing used material and products (wastes) back to production processes. This article examines the issue of geographic scale and loop closing for heterogeneous wastes through an analysis of the location and materials flows of a set of recycling, remanufacturing, recycling manufacturing, and waste treatment (RRWT) firms in Texas.

The results suggest that there is no preferable scale at which loop closing should be organized. RRWT firms are ubiquitous and operate successfully throughout the settlement hierarchy. The cycling boundaries of RRWT firms are dependent primarily upon how and where their products are redirected to production processes rather than the firm's location in the settlement hierarchy. In other words, loop closing is dominated by the spatial economic logic of the transactions of the firm involved. These results suggest that we cannot assign loop closing to any particular spatial scale a priori nor can we conceive of closing the loop via RRWT firms in terms of monolithic networks bounded in space or place with internal material flows. © 2007 by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Yale University.

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