Resource consumption drivers and pathways to reduction: economy, policy and lifestyle impact on material flows at the national and urban scale
Journal article, 2016
An analysis of material flows that also considers economic and social indicators has been performed at the national (Sweden) and urban scale (Stockholm and Gothenburg) to study the dynamics of resource use during the last two decades. A summary of policies related to resource consumption implemented at the EU, national and local scale is presented and their probable effects discussed based on empirical evidence. The resource consumption trends indicate that the implemented policies have failed to bring significant reductions in resource and energy throughput. Resource consumption has increased both in Sweden as a whole and in the studied cities. Moreover, the consumption of construction materials and electronics has grown exponentially, even when normalized by population. The few success stories are the absolute reduction in fossil fuel consumption achieved in Stockholm, building energy reduction by halve and complete abolishment of oil as the heating fuel in Sweden. The lifestyle characteristics that have an impact on resource consumption include high income, car ownership, large residential floor space, social movements and trends related to dietary choices. The consumption of electronics, textiles and cosmetic products was shown to have increased considerably. The same quantities of food are consumed, but the diet has changed. Waste generation by far outpaces improvements in recycling. In recycling, waste-to-energy is growing faster than material recycling, which impedes the development of a circular economy. The main limitation of the policies implemented to-date is that they only address efficiency of use, but do nothing to reduce the demand for resources. In addition, efforts have so far been restricted to energy consumption. The reality is that we must urgently reduce the consumption of all resources, not just fossil fuels. We call for greater concern and more action towards reducing nonfuel resource consumption.
Material flow analysis