Industrial ecology is the shifting of industrial process from open loop systems, in which resource and capital investments move through the system to become waste, to a closed loop system where wastes become inputs for new processes.
Industrial ecology was proposed in 1989 in Scientific American by Robert Frosch. Frosch vision was "why would not our industrial system behave like an ecosystem, where the wastes of a species may be resource to another species? Why would not the outputs of an industry be the inputs of another, thus reducing use of raw materials, pollution, and saving on waste treatment?".
Industrial ecology proposes not to see industrial systems (for example a plant, an ecoregion, or national or global economy) as being separate from the biosphere, but to consider it as a particular case of an ecosystem - but based on infrastructural capital rather than on natural capital. It is the idea that if natural systems do not have waste in them, we should model our systems after natural ones if we want them to be sustainable.
Along with more general energy conservation and material conservation goals, and redefining commodity markets and product stewardship relations strictly as a service economy, industrial ecology is one of the four objectives of Natural Capitalism. This strategy discourages forms of amoral purchasing arising from ignorance of what goes on at a distance and implies a political economy that values natural capital highly and relies on more instructional capital to design and maintain each unique industrial ecology.