1a. State how each of the following factors affects the materials balance model: (i) population growth; (ii) income growth; (iii) increased consumer recycling actions; (iv) increased industrial recycling; (v) increased use of pollution prevention technologies. b. Assume that stringent pollution controls are placed on the flow of residuals released into the atmosphere. According to the materials balance model, what does this imply about the residual flows to the other environmental media and/or the flow of inputs into the economy?
The crux of the material flow model is that all the resources employed in producing goods that are utilised in the economy, are sure to leave behind residuals/waste, which are sent back to the environment which possesses a natural capacity to convert it back into useful resources. This circle can be disturbed by a variety of factors including overuse/exploitation of resources and inefficient use of resources.
Refer to the flow diagram above to understand the following answer:
(i) Population growth would mean an increased number of consumers, due to which an increased demand can also fuel the production activities in the economy. This increases the flow of the materials. This could either mean reduced wastage due to optimum consumption or excessive production might mean exploitation of the available resources, or increased wastage in the process of production. The cycle is disturbed, assuming we started at the ideal state.
(ii) Income growth also increases the material flow. This is because higher income means raised demand, and greater consumption, which brings us back to what we just explained in part (i).
(iii) Increased consumer recycling will stop some of the material from going back to the nature through disposal. Clearly, this reduces the material flow. But this is only the case for short-run. In the long run, the recycled residuals also have to return to the nature, and the ideal material flow is to be reached.
(iv) Similarly, increased industrial recycling will also divert some of the industrial residuals away from their original flow. But here this would be due to producer behaviour, unlike in (iii) where it was due to consumer behaviour. Rest of the events that follow are the same as explained above in part (iii).
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