Despite Gains in Efficiency, Industrial Waste Escalates

By Glenn Hasek The global shift from heavy industries to knowledge- and service-based ones, and an increase in efficient use of resources have not been enough to slow total output of wastes, says a new report by Washington-based World Resources Institute (WRI). The study of five countries -- Austria, Germany, Japan, The Netherlands, and the U.S. -- reveals that total output of wastes and pollutants has increased by as much as 28% since 1975. "The resource efficiency gains . . . have been more than offset by the tremendous scale of economic growth and consumer choices that favor energy- and material-intensive lifestyles," says Emily Matthews of WRI. "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." The study was conducted by WRI, the Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies of Austrian Universities, Germany's Wuppertal Institute, Japan's National Institute for Environmental Studies, and The Netherlands' Centre of Environmental Science at Leiden University. The researchers documented the flow of raw materials, including minerals, fossil fuels, timber, and other agricultural products.

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