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Measuring less, Knowing more

The use of indicators in dematerialisation policy

This study investigates the possible use of indicators for dematerialisation policy in environmental policies. We conclude that such policy can certainly play a role, provided it meets three criteria:  

  1. Ii should serve to complement existing environmental policies (impacts policy, energy policy, product policy, etc.);
  2. it should also have the underlying objective of reducing the environmental burden (associated with materials usage);
  3. it should have the aim of measuring efficiency improvements and therefore focus on materials consumption (rather than in-puts) at the national or regional level.

Proceeding from these three policy criteria, we arrived at a basic delimitation of the kind of indicator to be constructed. We then moved on to develop a set of some 10 pilot indicators, which were then used to analyse trends in ten key bulk material flows. Further assessment of these pilot indicators showed that it is possible to construct an indicator where the consumption of materials is weighted with their environmental impacts. Such an indicator is in principle suitable for monitoring the progress of an effective dematerialisation policy (i.e. satisfying the three above criteria). The trend analyses with the pilot indicators demonstrated, moreover, that there may well be a need to initiate some form of dematerialisation policy in the Netherlands as materials consumption continued to rise.


Sander de Bruyn

Delft, January 2003

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