Dematerialization: good, but not good enough
Sammanfattning: Global raw material extraction has accelerated since the 1950s, causing resource depletion, ecosystem degra- dation, pollution, and climate change. To reduce such impacts, the economic drivers of material use must be addressed. Although economic growth often drives material use to increase, this increase can be counter- acted by dematerialization. This study explores whether dematerialization can achieve sustainable material footprints in Sweden by 2050, considering different scenarios of economic growth. Environmentally extended multi-regional input-output analysis was used to calculate the Swedish material footprint from 1995 to 2011. Structural decomposition analysis was used to quantify how much dematerialization, economic growth, con- sumption and trade patterns, and population drove the changes in the material footprint. Based on previous literature, 6 tons of materials per person was used as a sustainability target in three backcasting scenarios, reflecting degrowth, growth, and growth with ambitious shifts towards less material intensive consumption and trade patterns, respectively. The Swedish material footprint increased from 211 to 279 Mt from 1995 to 2011. While relative dematerialization did occur, economic growth caused material use to grow. If the economy degrows, the 2050 target can be reached with dematerialization rates of 0.7 times the previous rates. To reach the target under continued economic growth, dematerialization rates must increase by a factor of 1.8-2.7, depending on the extent of shifts to less material intensive consumption and trade patterns. Although further research is needed to examine whether such unprecedented rates of dematerialization are feasible, the results suggest that degrowth must be considered.
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