In-use product stocks link manufactured capital to natural capital

In-use stock of a product is the amount of the product in active use. In-use product stocks provide various functions or services on which we rely in our daily work and lives, and the concept of in-use product stock for industrial ecologists is similar to the concept of net manufactured capital stock for economists. This study estimates historical physical in-use stocks of 91 products and 9 product groups and uses monetary data on net capital stocks of 56 products to either approximate or compare with in-use stocks of the corresponding products in the United States. Findings include the following: (i) The development of new products and the buildup of their in-use stocks result in the increase in variety of in-use product stocks and of manufactured capital; (ii) substitution among products providing similar or identical functions reflects the improvement in quality of in-use product stocks and of manufactured capital; and (iii) the historical evolution of stocks of the 156 products or product groups in absolute, per capita, or per-household terms shows that stocks of most products have reached or are approaching an upper limit. Because the buildup, renewal, renovation, maintenance, and operation of in-use product stocks drive the anthropogenic cycles of materials that are used to produce products and that originate from natural capital, the determination of in-use product stocks together with modeling of anthropogenic material cycles provides an analytic perspective on the material linkage between manufactured capital and natural capital.

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