Material efficiency

Environmental issues resulting from the use of natural resources and concerns over the depletion of natural resources have made material efficiency an important goal both in the private and the public sector.

Material efficiency means making more from less while conserving the environment. The primary objective is to minimise the use of raw materials, resources and energy. A secondary objective is to reduce the harmful environmental impacts of a product or a service over its entire life cycle.

The smaller the material input required for a product or a service, the more efficiently are natural resources used. This usually also helps to lower costs and increase competitiveness of companies.

The material efficiency of products can be improved, for example, by

  • choosing raw materials and forms of energy and transport that are associated with low lifetime energy and material consumption;
  • increasing the efficiency of material and energy consumption in production processes;
  • minimising and optimising transport and packaging;
  • developing the properties of products (longevity, versatility and serviceability); and
  • developing systems for the reuse of products or parts of products.

Savings from material efficiency reviews

A material efficiency unit was established in conjunction with Motiva in 2008 to promote material efficiency in businesses, public organisations and homes. The unit has collaborated with businesses to develop a tool for evaluating material efficiency.

The material consumption and production processes of a business are reviewed systematically with a view to identifying ways of improving material efficiency. It takes into account life cycle thinking, environmental impacts and the principle of continuous improvement. Material efficiency reviews conducted in collaboration with a few pilot businesses indicate that potential savings are in the region of 20–30 per cent.

Published 2014-01-13 at 12:15, updated 2014-01-10 at 13:31