The "industrial metabolism" concept may help us to understand better the complex chain of steps from raw materials and energy inputs to final products, and enhances awareness of the concomitant production of wastes and by-products: "Industrial metabolism encompasses both production and consumption, the entire system for the transformation of materials, the energy and value-yielding process essential to economic development" (Ayres, 1989).
Application of the industrial metabolism concept involves detailed accounting of the flows of materials and energy through human activities, and so helps to reveal opportunities to save energy and materials (with little or no investment), thus resulting in decreased resource ex- But it has been justly observed that "the history of the chemical industry is one of finding new uses for what were formerly waste products" (Ayres, 1989), a process that may be enhanced by the right price signals.
Sometimes the disposal of the product itself, after its useful life, constitutes an environmental hazard. The industrial metabolism concept thus calls for a long-term global perspective that will stimulate the cutting down of wastes and increase the recycling of residues.
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