plementing a new recycling law. MITI's involvement is expected to be a strong inducement for companies to comply in a timely way. But in United States, there is no comparable institution that can address trade, competitiveness, and the environment in a coherent fashion. In general, there has been little or no coupling between U.S. technology policy and national environmental requirements.

While it would not make sense to create a separate institution within government to promote industrial ecology concepts, greater coordination between agencies would certainly be desirable. Industrial ecology concepts could be integrated into new interagency initiatives, such as the Manufacturing Technology Initiative and the Advanced Materials and Processing Program announced by the White House in early 1992. In addition, consideration could be given to creating a national environmental technology laboratory (Allenby, unpublished draft). 19


Government institutions cannot rationally formulate policies without knowing which environmental problems pose the greatest risks. Policymakers currently lack critical information on how materials flow through the economy and about the relative dangers of different materials, products, and waste streams. For instance, there has been considerable concern expressed about the releases of mercury from the incineration of discarded batteries. Yet these releases may be small compared with mercury releases from coal combustion in power plants. Thus, in identifying the major sources of environmental pollutants, it is clear that a systems view is of paramount importance. We need to focus our resources—whether financial or technical—where the risks are greatest, not where the problems are most visible.


Since our industrial activities have multiple environmental effects that are not easily disentangled, a systemic approach to environmental policy is needed. But given the barriers enumerated here, such a change in perspective will not come about easily. It is to be hoped that as we increase our understanding of the interconnections between economic and ecological systems, there will be greater political will to develop coherent environmental strategies.



The world economy is consuming resources and generating wastes at unprecedented rates. In the past 100 years, the world's industrial production increased more than fiftyfold. See Rostow, 1978, pp. 48-49.


Industrial ecology refers to the set of relationships among firms in industrial production networks, and the effects of these relationships on the flow of energy and materials through the economy and on the natural world in which the economy is embedded. Some observers envision

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