Industrial Metabolism

Industrial metabolism describes, using an analogy of human metabolism, the process by which industry convert raw materials, energy, and labor into finished products and wastes in a (more or less) steady-state condition. This characterization was developed in the 1960s when increased concerns about the environment prompted analyses of industrial operations analogous to the way material and energy balances are described in natural ecological systems.


The concept of industrial metabolism is useful for ecological economics as it provides a way to analyze the flow of physical resources in industrial and societal systems from an integrated perspective, allowing the study of system-wide effects and problem shifting due to environmental policies. It can be usefully applied at many different levels from global through national, regional, sectoral, company, site, and ...

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