Material flow accounting in an Irish city-region 1992-2002

This paper aims to measure raw material inputs and waste flows in an Irish city-region in order to analyse (i) whether there was absolute dematerialisation in the particular case study over the period 1992-2002 and (ii) whether material consumption and waste generation were decoupled from economic growth and increases in disposable income over the same period. It was found that the selected material flow indicators showed no evidence of absolute dematerialisation over the given study period, although more recent evidence at the national level suggests that a decline in construction activity and extraction of non-metallic minerals has resulted in an absolute reduction in material consumption and it is likely that this will be mirrored at the system boundary level. It was found that Domestic Material Consumption (DMC) per capita and Direct Material Input (DMI) per capita increased at a faster rate than Domestic Processed Output (DPO) per capita and Direct Material Output (DMO) per capita between 1992 and 2002, which indicates relative decoupling of consumption from waste generation. In addition, it was found that there was relative decoupling of consumption and waste generation from disposable income growth over the study period. Finally, it was found that average DMC and DMI figures for the selected case study were lower than the national averages but broadly similar to results for other city-regions in the European Union (EU). On a methodological note, it was concluded that material flow accounting (MFA) for city-regions in Ireland is constrained due to a lack of disaggregated data for material flows, with the exception of local waste data, and it is recommended that bottom-up analysis should be used to complement disaggregated top-down data.

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