Towards an Integrated Regional Materials Flow Accounting Model

A key challenge in attaining regional sustainability is to reduce both the direct and the indirect environmental impacts associated with economic and household activity in the region. Knowing what these flows are and how they change over time is a prerequisite for this task.This article describes the early development of an integrated regional materials flow accounting framework. The framework is based on a hybrid (material and economic) multiregional input‐output model. Using readily available economic and materials data sets together with transport and logistics data, the framework attempts to provide estimates of household resource flows for any U.K. region at quite detailed levels of product and material disaggregation. It is also capable of disaggregating these flows according to specific socioeconomic criteria such as income level or occupation of the head of household. Allied to appropriate energy and life‐cycle assessment data sets, the model could, in addition, be used to map both direct and indirect environmental impacts associated with these flows.The benefits of such an approach are likely to be a considerable reduction of uncertainties in (1) our knowledge of the household metabolism, and hence our predictions of regional household waste generation; (2) our assessment of the impacts of contemplated changes in industrial process siting, and thereby on other aspects of local and regional planning; and (3) our understanding of the impacts of changes in the pattern of demand for different materials and products. It is concluded that the use of such an integrated assessment tool has much to contribute to the debate on regional sustainability.

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