A Product-Level Approach to Historical Material Flow Analysis

17 Pages Posted: 4 Apr 2011

See all articles by Ermelinda M. Harper

Ermelinda M. Harper

Yale University - School of Forestry & Environmental Studies


Studies of material cycles, which have a solid history in biogeochemistry, include characterization of technological materials cycles that quantify the way in which materials move through the economy and environment of a region. One of the most important aspects of historical technological materials cycles is determining how much material goes into various uses over time and modeling its lifetime in each use. A material flow analysis methodology is presented by which a historical (i.e., 1975 to 2000) study of tungsten use in the United States was constructed. The approach utilized in this study is twofold: the traditional approach by which material going into end-use sectors is approximated (the end-use sector model-), and a second approach by which end-use products are specifically addressed (the finished product model-). By virtue of the latter method, a detailed historical account of a material's end uses was developed. This study shows that (1) both models present a detailed treatment of trade of finished products over time for a variety of highly disaggregated products, (2) the end-use sector model provides a method to combine quantitative and qualitative data about products in various sectors to estimate domestic production for a metal about which little is known in terms of its end uses, and (3) the finished product model produces detailed estimates of domestic production for a large number of highly disaggregated products.

Keywords: end uses, industrial ecology, material cycles, metals, resource management, substance flow analysis (SFA)

Suggested Citation

Harper, Ermelinda M., A Product-Level Approach to Historical Material Flow Analysis. Journal of Industrial Ecology, Vol. 12, Nos. 5-6, pp. 768-784, 2008. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1801039 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1530-9290.2008.00070.x

Ermelinda M. Harper (Contact Author)

Yale University - School of Forestry & Environmental Studies ( email )

New Haven, CT 06511
United States

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