Material efficiency

Material efficiency is, next to the efficiency with which energy, water and land are utilised, a main component of resource efficiency. It also strongly interacts with these other aspects of resource efficiency, e.g. via the energy, water and land use changes involved in producing, transporting, using and discarding materials. Incremental changes in material efficiency are commendable and can help maintain firms’ competitiveness under business as usual scenarios.1 Yet more comprehensive and radical innovations are needed that help to drastically reduce the material throughput of developed economies.2 3 More awareness for material throughput associated with economic activities needs to be created, from producers, over investors4 to distributors and consumers. The material efficiency innovation system is intricately connected to that for waste and recycling. When adopting a broader notion of material efficiency that looks less at specific products and more at how utility for humans is achieved within the overall societal metabolism5, avoidance, re-use and recycling can be regarded as contributing factors.

  • 1. Dobbs, Richard, Jeremy Oppenheim, James Manyika, Scott S. Nyquist, and Charles Roxburgh. 2011. Resource Revolution: Meeting the World’s Energy, Materials, Food, and Water Needs. Mckinsey Global Institute.
  • 2. Ekins, Paul, Hector Pollitt, Philip Summerton, and Unnada Chewpreecha. 2012. ‘Increasing Carbon and Material Productivity through Environmental Tax Reform’. Energy Policy 42 (March): 365–76. doi:10.1016/j.enpol.2011.11.094.
  • 3. Weizsäcker, Ernst Ulrich, Ernst Von Weizsacker, Club of Rome, Michael H Smith, and Natural Edge Project. 2009. Factor Five: Transforming the Global Economy through 80% Improvements in Resource Productivity : A Report to the Club of Rome. Earthscan.
  • 4. Onischka, Mathias, Christa Liedtke, and Nino David Jordan. 2012. ‘How to Sensitize the Financial Industry to Resource Efficiency Considerations and Climate Change Related Risks’. Journal of Environmental Assessment Policy and Management 14 (03). doi:10.1142/S1464333212500172.
  • 5. Krausmann, Fridolin, and Marina Fischer-Kowalski. 2013. ‘Global Socio-Metabolic Transitions’. In Long Term Socio-Ecological Research, 339–65. Springer. http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-94-007-1177-8_15.

Knowledge development and diffusion

Scientific publications - Material Efficiency

Publications serve as proxy for research and knowledge diffusion activity.

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Scientific publications per 1000 researchers - Material Efficiency

Publications serve as proxy for research and knowledge diffusion activity

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Scientific publications per mill. inhab. - Material Efficiency

Publications serve as proxy for research and knowledge diffusion activity.

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Influence on the direction of search

Domestic material consumption (DMC)

Monitoring overall developments in Domestic Material Consumption per capita can inform where and when policy interventions for more efficient use are likely to have the greatest urgency and potential for impact. From there on it makes sense to look at more specific types of Domestic Material Consumption.

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Domestic material consumption - Metal ores

Monitoring developments in Domestic Material Consumption of metal ores per capita can inform where and when policy interventions for more efficient use are likely to have the greatest urgency and potential for impact.

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Domestic material consumption - Non metallic minerals

Monitoring developments in Domestic Material Consumption of non-metallic materials per capita can inform where and when policy interventions for more efficient use are likely to have the greatest urgency and potential for impact.

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Legitimation of technologies

Eurobarometer survey - Environmental concern

A higher prioritisation of environmental issues should translate into more support for material efficiency. However, the issue may be perceived as more remote from environmental problems as it is not as well established as other fields of action

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Resource mobilization

BERD Manufacture of basic iron & steel and of ferro-alloys & their basic products

Private research and development expenditure into metals manufacturing can lead to greater material and carbon efficiency and increased recycling.

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BERD Rental & leasing activities

Private research and development expenditure into rental and leasing activities can lead to innovations that increase material efficiency.

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BERD Repair & installation of machinery & equipment

Private research and development expenditure into repair activities can lead to innovations that increase material efficiency.

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Public R&D spending - Environment sector (PPS per capita)

This may benefit the generation of material efficiency knowledge.
 

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Public R&D spending - Environment sector (share of GBAORD)

This may benefit the generation of material efficiency knowledge

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