Applying Ecological Input-Output Flow Analysis to Material Flows in Industrial Systems: Part II: Flow Metrics

Journal Article
2004

This article, continuing with the themes of the companion article, expounds the capabilities of input-output techniques as applied to material flows in industrial systems. Material flows are the primary focus because of their role in directly linking natural and industrial systems and thereby being fundamental components of environmental issues in industrial economies. The specific topic in this article concerns several material flow metrics used to characterize system behavior that are derived from the ecological development of input-output techniques; most notable of these metrics are several measures of material cycling and a measure of the number of processes visited by material while in a system. These metrics are shown to be useful in analyzing the state of material flow systems. Further-more, the metrics are shown to be a central link in connecting input-output flow analysis to synthesis (i.e., the process of using measurements of system behavior to design changes to that system). By connecting the flow metrics to both environmental objectives and controllable aspects of flow models, changes to existing flow systems are synthesized to generate improved system behavior. To bring this pair of articles to a close, several limitations of input-output flow analysis are summarized with the goal of stimulating further interest and research.