Develop methodologies, data, and indicators to advance the use of physical accounts of material throughput in the U.S. economy as a tool for formulating national environmental policies.
Materials Flow Accounts track the physical flows of natural resources through the U.S. economy including the mass mobilized during extraction, production, fabrication, use, recycling, and final disposal, and accounting for losses to the environment at each stage. The World Resources Institute is committed to the notion that Materials Flow Accounts (MFA) hold great promise for providing a sound basis to coordinate environmental and economic policy formulation across national governments. In its current phase, the Material Flow Analysis project at WRI will compile and analyze the Materials Flows Accounts of the United States and encourage the government and other institutions to use these data and indicators in policy formulation.
Starting in the Fall of 2002, the WRI project began building a Materials Flow Accounts database for the US in cooperation with several US agencies. This phase of the project represents both a formalization of WRI’s past MFA work as well as an opportunity to refine the methodology. Our goal is to improve MFA data compilation and analysis in a way that it can be implemented by agencies of the U.S. government.
The MFA project emphasizes three main approaches to achieve the desired outcome for this phase: (i) Developing the latest and best MFA data and indicators for the U.S., (ii) analyzing data and critical indicators, and (iii) gaining adoption of national level Materials Flow Accounts and associated indicators by the U.S. government. Though distinct, these approaches reinforce one another by relying on the same data and data formats while using different tools for analysis. As an example, our work on MFA can support the goals of the Office of Solid Waste at USEPA through several applications including:
- To test the material flow account approach to priority substances for more effective national chemicals policy,
- To generate national waste estimates that extend beyond the regulatory universe, and
- To furnish a framework for relating reductions in municipal waste streams with overall waste streams.
Because institutional cooperation lies at the heart of this effort, the MFA project aims to identify institutional challenges within the government and work to lower the barriers to implementing this activity at the federal level. The project involves actively engaging key federal agencies, and maintaining close connections with other relevant institutions abroad drawing on our extensive international contacts.
- Centre of Environmental Science, Leiden University (CML)
- Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ)
- Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies of Austrian Universities (IFF)
- National Institute for Environmental Studies (NIES)
- National Research Council, National Materials Advisory Board (NMAB)
- OECD Environmental Performance, Indicators and Outlooks
- US Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis (DOC/BEA)
- US Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration (DOE/EIA)
- US Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Air and Radiation
- US Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Environmental Information (EPA/OEI)
- US Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Research and Development
- US Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Solid Waste
- US Geological Survey, Minerals Information
- Wuppertal Institute (WI)