Industrial ecology is an internationally recognized material accounting procedure useful for providing a comprehensive model of significant material and energy flows both within industrial systems and between industry and the environment. The industrial ecology approach is especially significant in that it can provide information currently lacking in most material accounting procedures, including the following:
• cumulative effects of material flows;
• estimates of historical and future flow patterns;
• diffuse sources of material output flows to the environment;
• possible political, economic, technological, social and other forces driving human-induced material flows.
The Australian case study usefully outlines industrial ecology methodology and illustrates the need to consider how unique environmental and human factors influence material flows within a region when attempting to improve that region's industrial ecology. National case studies also play an important role in contributing towards a globally sustainable industrial ecology, since all nations are interlinked economically, politically and environmentally.
This case study provides a preliminary insight into Australia's industrial ecology as highly material-intensive, but also identifies many opportunities to improve its sustain-ability. For instance, Australia's transport structure offers great potential to improve the nation's industrial ecology, since it is currently consumes a very large share of national material and energy resources. For more details on possible political, economic, technological, informational and social instruments to improve Australia's industrial ecology, see Durney (1997) and Brown and Singer (1996).
A key finding of the Australian case study was that, compared to the USA and some European countries, Australia has a paucity of data on major inputs, outputs and paths of material flows. Further, all countries have the following data priorities to improve their industrial ecology studies and evaluations:
• data on the output side of material flows, particularly cumulative, dissipative, hazardous and toxic wastes and their long-term effects (for example, Baccini and Brunner 1991);
• the composition of goods: supplementing financial bookkeeping with material bookkeeping (Stigliani and Anderberg 1994);
• material consumption data for industrial activities (Liedtke 1993);
• emission coefficients for consumption activities and post-disposal impacts (Ayres and Ayres 1994);
• data on ecological 'rucksacks' and translocated masses, both nationally and for exports and imports (Bringezu et al. 1994: Schmidt-Bleek 1993a).
It would also be important to consider trade and international relations and equity, employment and distributional issues when trying to facilitate improved national industrial ecology, and to guard against imperialist and non-participatory strategies to improve national and global industrial ecology. See Gerd et al. (1989) on exports and dematerial-ization; Dietz and van der Straaten (1994) and Simonis (1992) on distributional effects of dematerialization; Godlewska and Smith (1994), Durning (1994) and Escobar (1985) on imperialism in 'development'; and Howitt (1993) and Lane (1997) on participatory strategies of assessing social impacts of developments.
In Australia major efforts are being made to improve the national waste database (Moore and Tu 1995, 1996), to facilitate integrated resource management in Australia (NCC 1999) and to build an environmental impact database for various activities (P. Hopper, Nature Conservation Council, Sydney, personal communication, July 2000). Building on these strengths while incorporating useful international industrial ecology research can improve Australian industrial ecology methodology, and identify policy instruments to help close and dematerialize Australian industrial material cycles. Modeling national industrial systems on sustainable ecological systems with low material intensity and throughput is a vital step towards the broader goal of a global sustainable industrial ecology.
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