The flows of nonfood and nonfuel materials through the economy have significant impact on our lives and the world around us. Growing populations and economies demand more goods, services, and infrastructure. Since the beginning of the twentieth century, the types of materials consumed in the United States have significantly changed. In 1900, on a per-weight basis, almost half of the materials consumed were from renewable resources, such as wood, fibers, and agricultural products, the rest being derived from nonrenewable resources. By 1995, the consumption of renewable resources had declined dramatically, to only 8% of total consumption. During this century, the quantity of materials consumed has grown, from 161 million metric tons in 1900 to 2.8 billion metric tons by 1995, an equivalent of 10 metric tons per person per year. Of all the materials consumed during this century, more than half were consumed in the last 25 years. This paper examines the general historical shifts in materials consumption and presents an analysis of different measurements of materials use and the significance of their trends.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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