Materials intensity of use in the United States, 1900-1990. This metric conveys the evolving materials requirements of an economy over time. Consumption data are indexed to annual GDP in constant 1982 dollars. (For example, in 1900, U.S. phosphate consumption was 1,515,425 metric tons and gross national product was $261.5 billion, equivalent to about 5.8 metric tons per million dollars GDP. In 1990, 4,692,919 metric tons of phosphate were consumed and GDP was $4,120 billion, equivalent to about 11.2 metric tons per million dollars GDP.) All intensity-of-use values are normalized to unity at 1940 with the exception of plastics, which is indexed to 1942. SOURCES: Modern Plastics Magazine (1960); Bureau of the Census (1975, 1992). Data on U.S. production of plastics resin are from Broyhill, Statistics Department, Society of the Plastics Industry, Washington, D.C., personal communication, August 20, 1993.
extracting materials from the earth and sustain itself through its above-ground materials endowment and recycling. For 1990, recycled material accounted for about 5 percent of all inputs to the U.S. economy by weight (Rogich, 1993). Impeding the increase of this fraction are the heterogeneity of materials in the waste stream, industrial demand for materials with highly specific properties, and cumbersome regulations. These factors combine to shrink the pool of resources that can be used as inputs to production (Frosch, 1994; Wernick, 1994).
Among specific materials of interest are metals and wood. The fraction of secondary to total metals consumption indicates both the efficiency of metals