Central terms

Resources versus materials: Often, both terms are used interchangeably, but “resources” refers to a broader range of categories (including energy, water and land) than “materials”. The term materials is used for all physically present materials except water. The term resource is applied as in common usage, such as “resource scarcity” or “resource-rich”.


Material productivity or material efficiency illustrates the amount of economic value generated per tonne of materials used. GDP/DMC is also the headline indicator of the EC's Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe. The inverse measure is termed material intensity, which shows how much material is necessary to produce one unit of GDP.


Decoupling refers to the amount of materials in relation to economic output or in relation to environmental impact. Relative decoupling means that resource use or environmental impact is growing slower than economic output. Absolute decoupling refers to a decrease in resource use or environmental impact in absolute terms.


Extraction refers to the indicator “Domestic Extraction Used”, which measures the flows of materials that originate from the environment and physically enter the economic system for further processing or direct consumption.


The term material use is used as a generic term, including extraction, trade and consumption.


The Physical Trade Balance (PTB) is defined as imports minus exports measured in physical terms (mass).


Domestic Material Consumption (DMC) is defined as the total amount of materials directly used in an economy and calculated as extraction plus imports minus exports.

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