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Material Flows in the United States

A Physical Accounting of the U.S. Industrial Economy

This report analyzes WRI's material flow dataset by economic sector, identifies the environmental implications of national trends in materials use, and recommends several policy alternatives to the U.S. government for incorporating and using these accounts.

Executive Summary

U.S. decision-makers enjoy access to some of the best economic information and analysis in the world, including detailed measurements of economic activity, employment, and changes in the productivity of labor and capital. These statistics and indicators drive policy and move markets.

Regrettably, our conventional economic accounts are not so effective when it comes to providing adequate information on the long-term costs to society of environmental degradation.

This report provides detailed data on trends in material flows in four key sectors of the U.S. economy:

  • metal and minerals,
  • nonrenewable organic materials (including fossil fuels),
  • agriculture, and
  • forestry

This report analyzes WRI's material flow dataset by economic sector, identifies the environmental implications of national trends in materials use, and recommends several policy alternatives to the U.S. government for incorporating and using these accounts.

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