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Materials accounting as a tool for decision making in environmental policy


Summary: This study provides an overview of the flows and stocks of chlorine and chlorinated compounds within the Western Europe. In particular, the project identified hazardous flows, described trends and explored various control measures. The following results were obtained: There is a large stock of PVC in the anthroposphere. Hence, if the use of PVC is phased out within the next 10 years, PVC waste flows will still be generated over the next two centuries. This can be shown with simple models. From the study of world-wide CFC stocks, it can be concluded that there will be emissions of CFCs for the next 50 years from accumulated stocks, even if the use in developing countries would decrease just as fast as in the developed countries. The study of chlorinated compounds in the Netherlands reveals, that there is an important gap in the current knowledge about emissions of chlorinated micro-pollutants. A number of ways to improve the understanding of these emissions are explored.
Summary: The MFA methodology is well suited to describe and visualize complex flow systems eg an urban region. It is based on the principle of the conversation of mass (input equals output), and thus is easily understood by decision makers ("what goes in must come out"). It is highly transparent tool, and provides a good basis of comparing a set of scenarios. MFA systematizes and integrates information coming from different disciplines. MFA requires a sound methodology with a well defined system boundary in time and space, involving processes (transports, transformations and stocks), and of flows of goods and substances. The work of the Mac TEmPo team confirmed that the methodology for materials accounting can be applied on all levels and scales, such as households, cities, regions and nations. For future studies in the field of materials accounting, it is recommended to follow a set of "base" definitions and to gradually enlarge it by a consensus process before establishing normalized standards. This "common language" is also necessary to form links with other Material Accounting networks and databases such as the ConAccount process (Wuppertal) In order to examine the flows of goods and substance through a defined system, materials data is required. To data , no standardized methods or databases exist which allow simple, routine collection of data about flows and stocks of goods and substances. It appeared that the necessary statistical data to establish rough material balances is available for mass goods in all countries. Regionalised information is more difficult to obtain, and information about the flows and stocks of specific substances in general is not readily available from official statistical sources. In general, statistics focus on goods with an economic value. Substances, which are often hidden in goods, are rarely assessed. A main drawback of present data collection is, that the requirements of MFA are not yet taken into account, that is, that the information which is collected about the use of the substances on one level ( eg mining) is not yet linked to the next levels (production, trade, consumption, waste management, emissions). A Material Accounting system (Mac) is recommended which involves periodically registering material data in conjunction with current data collection systems. The data sets should include: information on both, goods and substances ( input and output) and information where these materials are produced and used.
Summary: MFA Usage for policy makers in the field of environment management and resource planning. The application of MFA in the political decision making improves transparency: Arguments from different stakeholders in the political debate can be formulated and tested against the information provided by MFA. It allows "operators" and their clients to this new and efficient tool together to find a common platform and to reach effective decisions. "Operators" include: decision makers on all levels, such as entrepreneurs, city officials, Ministries of the Environment etc. MFA is a useful tool for synthesis particularly in the design of future scenarios of goal orientated resource utilization. It has the potential to assist in forecasting the effects of social and economic developments on materials management systems. In a decision making process MFA provides information about possible future "problem shifts" and thus serves as a base for long term planning. When MFA is applied repeatedly to the same system ("material accounting"), it can be used to evaluate the success of policy measures, and to create and enhance awareness of future problems. MFA allows one to compare the anthropogenic substance flows in environmental loadings and allows priorities to be set and measures to be defined. The Mac TEmPo project indicates clearly the need to shift the focus in environmental protection research from analysis of the environment to be understanding of the anthroposphere. The main focus in the future should be on the analysis and control of the anthroposphere. It is important to establish offices for materials management on regional, national and European levels, which eventually may replace current environmental protection and resource management positions. Such a change seems possible only if new policy strategies are established which focus more on efficient and total resource management rather than on singular ad-hoc forms of environmental protection. It is necessary to examine the links between the results of Material Flow Analysis (MFA) and the policy (decision) making process(es). Mac TEmPo initiated a Austrian research project which will analyze the socio-political considerations (from a political science perspective) for the implementation of Material Flow Analysis.
Summary: A material flow system can be described mathematically by a set of equations. These mathematical models can be used to understand the functioning of the whole system particularly when data is unavailable or when it is necessary to estimate unmeasured flows or transfer co-efficient. Models can also highlight where additional measurements are required and can assist optimizing material management strategies. The material flow models applied in the MAc TEmPo projects are mainly "quasi-steady-state" models, although in a few cases dynamic systems were investigated, too. With respect to the data analysis and data application two different approaches are chosen: 1) for a given system the error propagation is calculated, ii) for a given system , statistical tools are applied to improve the quality of flow and stock estimates. There is no uniformity with regard to the software applied (computer aided substance flow analysis). The project teams have developed their own tools for calculating and visualizing SFA. In the opinion of the engaged MAc TEmPo groups a standardization is not needed. It is essential that the methodological basis is the same. Eventually the best software should be selected by market mechanisms (user demand).
Summary: The anthropogenic flows and stocks of selected materials (ie Al, C, Cd, Cr, Cu, Fe, Hg ,N, Ni, Pb, and Zn) of two cities (Stockholm and Vienna) were examined. The following conclusions were drawn: It is possible to determine the stocks of goods and substances in urban centres even over long time periods. Concerning mass goods such as water, air and fuels, today's cities are linear flow through reactors. There is an ever increasing stock of construction materials and consumer goods stored in cities. The accumulation of metals in cities is large, while the emissions so far are small in relation to the current stocks. The accumulation of metals in cities is large, while the emissions so far are small in relation to the current stocks. Stock emissions are not well known. Thus, most environmental concern should be directed to manage the stock in order to minimize future impacts. Older domains of use often dominate the stock. Some of the goods, ie "dead electrical cables", are no longer in use and are forgotten "resources". The responsibility for managing these forgotten materials is unclear. Material Flow Analysis enables one to detect such hibernating material. MFA can serve as a basis for environmental indicators. Indicators for urban regions should be based on the anthroposphere (use of materials) rather than on the environmental (concentrations in air, water and soil). The result of both MFA studies will be incorporated into the environmental programs of the local government authorities e.g. Local Agenda 21 process.
Summary: This case study is part of a large program investigating the restructuring of a region in the Swiss Lowlands in view of sustainable developing (SYNOIKOS). The main objectives were to elaborate material management models for water, biomass and construction materials, and to develop long term scenarios with regard to concrete goals of regional development, such as sustainability" and regional self-sufficiency. It is anticipated that the results will form the basis of a regional material accounting concept. A further task involved focussing on how political decisions are made within regional resource management. The following conclusions were drawn: Water regime: In the Synoikos region, systems for water supply as well as waste water collection and treatment are highly developed. The region depends on ground water as a source of drinking water. the quality of this source is gradually decreasing mainly due to agricultural activities. Nitrate concentrations in the groundwater are still increasing (very slowly). If no additional measures in agricultural practice are taken, then drinking water quality limits on a long-term scale could be exceeded. This regional metabolic process does not fulfil the criteria of sustainability. Biomass: The case study focuses on wood and shows, that today, wood is not a scarce resource anymore in this region. Scenarios were developed to get a better understanding of the future role of wood as a renewable resource. The project revealed, that regional forestry should be directed towards the production of timber rather than paper. Sustainable forestry practice alone is insufficient to attain sustainable regional management of wood. In addition, production, processing and disposal of wood have to be well balanced. Construction materials: Flows and stocks of construction materials and construction wastes were analyzed, and the effects of control measures on material and energy flows were investigated by modelling three scenarios. It was found, that for sustainable management of residential buildings, the key factor is the energy demand for its operation, and not the amount or kind of construction materials used. A significant reduction of energy consumption can only be reached, if the stock of residential buildings tops growing and the existing buildings are raised to the highest available standard of energy conservation.

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