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close this bookIndustrial Metabolism: Restructuring for Sustainable Development (UNU; 1994; 376 pages)
View the documentNote to the reader from the UNU
View the documentAcknowledgements
View the documentIntroduction
Open this folder and view contentsPart 1: General implications
close this folderPart 2: Case-studies
Open this folder and view contents6. Industrial metabolism at the national level: A case-study on chromium and lead pollution in Sweden, 1880-1980
Open this folder and view contents7. Industrial metabolism at the regional level: The Rhine Basin
close this folder8. Industrial metabolism at the regional and local level: A case-study on a Swiss region
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentMethodology
View the documentResults
View the documentConclusions
View the documentReferences
Open this folder and view contents9. A historical reconstruction of carbon monoxide and methane emissions in the United States, 1880-1980
Open this folder and view contents10. Sulphur and nitrogen emission trends for the United States: An application of the materials flow approach
Open this folder and view contents11. Consumptive uses and losses of toxic heavy metals in the United States, 1880-1980
View the documentAppendix
Open this folder and view contentsPart 3: Further implications
View the documentBibliography
View the documentContributors


1. If the goal of environmental protection is to conserve the quality of water, air, and soil for a long period of time, the contribution of anthropogenic materials must not change geogenic fluxes and reservoirs beyond their natural variations. This means that measures to limit the flux from the anthroposphere to the environment have to be based on regional characteristics: the area of a region, its geology, climate, reservoirs of water, air and soil, population density, the activities of the population, etc., determine which fluxes from the anthroposphere fulfil the above criteria. If the geogenic material flux is relatively small, as in the case of the water flux of the Bünztal, the admissable per capita level of anthropogenic material fluxes is much lower than in a region with abundant geogenic resources. Owing to the large population density and the high per capita turnover of the region investigated, both the sink "soil" and the relatively small conveyer belt "surface water" receive large anthropogenic inputs. The concentrations of metals and phosphorus in the soil are constantly increased; the concentrations and fluxes of many materials in the River Bünz are enlarged on their way through the valley. Regional material balances allow us to identify the most effective measures for the control of material fluxes in a region.

2. In general, the material imports and exports of modern urban regions are not in equilibrium. In the case under consideration, nearly 10 per cent of the total material flux remains in the region and is accumulated, particularly in the anthroposphere (infrastructure) and in the soil (landfills, topsoil). In fact, if imports of solid goods and fuels are considered alone, the accumulation amounts to 50 per cent of the import flux. Hence, the stock of materials is increasing. In future, this stock has the potential for becoming the region's largest waste problem, as well as serving as its major resource. As a new goal of resource management, it is suggested that materials should be kept within the anthroposphere; thus, resources should be conserved by multiple re-use, and the flux of materials to the environment (landfills, soil, and sediments) should be minimized. Engineers and designers should make sure that the material composition of a good is such that the re-use of all materials becomes possible for consecutive life cycles. Mining should be replaced by recycling. If materials are efficiently managed, the re-use of anthropogenic materials requires less energy than primary production from ores (steel, paper, glass, aluminium). However, this strategy will be successfully implemented only if the designing process is supplemented by the new objectives of a long-term sustainable metabolism of the anthroposphere.

3. In urban areas, the key processes for material fluxes are private households. They are characterized by a large turnover and a growing stock of materials. Hence, the management of wastes from households is an important part of regional material management. Recently developed integrated concepts are based on the principle that waste treatment should minimize long-term risks, and that it should produce only three kinds of residuals: (1) goods with final storage quality; (2) goods with adequate properties and markets for recycling; and (3) sustainable emissions (Brunner and Baccini, 1992).

4. A strategy for limiting inputs and outputs at the anthroposphere/environment interface, and for controlling materials within the anthroposphere itself, will replace the present practice of end-of-pipe oriented environmental protection. In order fully to exploit the potential of materials management for efficient resource conservation and environmental protection, it is essential to identify the key processes within a region and to establish their annual material balance. Study of the Untere Bünztal has shown that data on the flux of goods are abundant and readily available; but for most materials, there is not enough information to establish a regional balance. Therefore, traditional financial bookkeeping has to be supplemented by material bookkeeping on all levels, such as those of private and public households, primary production, agriculture, trade and commerce, waste-treatment facilities, etc. Such accounting is not totally new: it is already customary for materials like gold, plutonium, and morphine-based drugs, and is well established in the banking sector, the nuclear industry, and in health care. In the case of private households or small and medium-sized enterprises, it could be delegated to specialized institutions while large enterprises could do it for themselves. If the information about material fluxes from the processing of ores to the manufacturing and distribution of goods can be linked to an overall material flux, regions will have an important tool to maximize the use of their resources and to minimize environmental impacts. In the future, regions which use materials accounting for their planning and management may gain considerable economic advantages (see table 6).

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