> Contact: Adlai J. Amor at (1-202) 729 7736) or email:<email@example.com>
> WASHINGTON, DC, September 20, 2000 - A new report released today by the
> World Resources Institute (WRI) reveals that the total output of wastes and
> pollutants in Austria, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, and the USA has
> increased by as much as 28 percent since 1975 despite their increasing
> efficiency in using natural resources.
> The report also reveals that from one-half to three-quarters of the annual
> resource inputs used in these five countries are returned to the
> environment as wastes within one year.
> "The resource efficiency gains brought about by the rise of e-commerce and
> the shift from heavy industries toward knowledge- and service-based
> industries have been more than offset by the tremendous scale of economic
> growth and consumer choices that favor energy- and material -intensive
> lifestyles," said Emily Matthews of WRI and lead author of The Weight of
> Nations: Material Outflows from Industrial Economies.
> She added that by its very nature, economic growth poses a fundamental
> challenge to the environment's capacity to provide sufficient resources and
> absorb wastes without serious degradation. "Better government policies and
> savvy management practices on the part of industry can help to break the
> link between economic growth and resource consumption and waste," Matthews
> The study was carried out by a team of researchers from Austria's Institute
> of Interdisciplinary Studies of Austrian Universities, Germany's Wuppertal
> Institute, Japan's National Institute for Environmental Studies, The
> Netherlands' Centre of Environmental Science at Leiden University and the
> World Resources Institute.
> The researchers documented the flow of raw materials -- including minerals,
> fossil fuels, timber, and other agricultural products - in Austria,
> Germany, Japan, The Netherlands, and the United States. These accounts of
> the complete "materials cycle" or the flow of raw materials through the
> processes of extraction, production, use, and disposal can be evaluated
> alongside traditional monetary indicators, such as gross domestic product
> (GDP), to measure the materials intensity of a country. The higher the
> number of goods produced per unit of raw material or energy input, or waste
> output, the more efficient a country is in using its resources.
> The report concludes that standard economic indicators alone, such as the
> GDP, are insufficient for evaluating the true state of global economies.
> Such indicators, the authors write, neglect to consider whether or not
> countries make efficient and sustainable use of the natural resource base
> upon which their economies depend.
> "Not only does such inefficiency strain the capacity of air, soil, and
> water to absorb such waste, but it's also poor business practice," said
> Matthews. "Why continue to waste expensive raw materials when becoming more
> resource-efficient can increase companies' profit margins and also protect
> the environment?"
> The researchers also found that even though many countries have been
> successful in regulating some of the most hazardous wastes, such as lead
> and sulfur, outputs of many potentially harmful materials, such as arsenic,
> continue to increase. The authors argue that this lack of control is
> largely due to the fact that such emissions often occur at the extraction,
> use, or disposal phases of the material cycle, instead of the more
> regulated production phase.
> They conclude that national accounts tracking the entire material cycle
> would provide policy-makers, industry leaders, and the public at large with
> more comprehensive information on the extraction, use, and disposal of such
> potentially dangerous wastes. "We must understand the entire materials
> cycle, since neither governments nor industries can effectively manage what
> they don't measure," said Matthews.
> The report confirms that the extraction and use of fossil energy resources
> dominated output flows in all five countries. It shows that, excluding
> "hidden" waste flows, carbon dioxide emissions account for more than 80
> percent, by weight, of total waste flows in the countries studied. "The
> atmosphere is by far the biggest dumping ground for industrial wastes,"
> said Matthews.
> There are positive trends, however. The study found that quantities of
> solid wastes sent to landfills have stabilized or declined in some study
> countries by 30 percent or more. Such reductions have been achieved, in
> part, through increased recycling efforts.
> Yet, the authors conclude, developing countries can be expected to attain
> roughly the same high level of materials-intensity as the industrialized
> countries. "Only if the level of materials intensity at which
> industrialized and developing counties eventually converge is substantially
> below that found in industrialized countries today can there be hope of
> mitigating global environmental problems and sustainably supporting the
> world's growing population," said Matthews.
> She added that the establishment of national materials flow accounts and
> efforts on the part of industry and citizens at genuine dematerialization
> should have a strong claim on the policy, business, and human development
> The World Resources Institute (WRI) is a Washington, DC-based center for
> research that provides objective information and practical proposals for
> change to foster environmentally sound and sustainable development. WRI
> works with institutions in more than 50 countries to bring the insights of
> scientific research, economic analyses and practical experience to
> political, business and nongovernmental organizations around the world. For
> more information, visit WRI's website at: http://www.wri.org/wri
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