To overcome this lack of information, the FORWAST support action (funded under FP6, a grant funding programme) aims to develop a data analysing methodology that estimates the material stock of the 27 member states of the European Union (EU-27). It establishes a qualitative and quantitative connection between the stocks and the production of waste, and carries out an analysis of costs and benefits in terms of monetized environmental impact.
In the context of environment protection and sustainable development, it becomes more and more obvious that tapping natural resources will affect all business sectors in the near future. This assessment implies that both the possibility of recovering various waste and the way natural resources are used are dramatically impacted by waste management policies. From then on, the connections between the natural raw material stocks and waste production need to be better estimated. That is why the present support action aims to provide an exhaustive inventory of physical stocks of material within the EU- 27 over the next 25 years, under an harmonised classification (prodcom). The project also provides a set of macro-economic scenarios (i.e. high growth, business as usual and low growth) dealing with waste prevention, recycling and treatment.
The methodology consists of a three-step approach.
The first step consists in modelling the material flows, stocks and emissions. To do so, the so-developed model calculates the stocks of products and residuals (i.e. the amount of material sourced from the environment and not released as emissions), the waste flows (i.e. material output from human activity, which is neither part of the product output nor an emission) and the monetized environmental impact (i.e. monetized indicator of impact from human activity on the environment). This model represents a global Material Flow Analysis of the economy.
The second step is data mining, combining both the data stemming from complete studies related to a limited number of countries (i.e. Denmark, Austria, Germany and France) and the extension of the data coverage to the EU-27, is carried out.
For the third step, a time dimension is added to the model in order to provide an inventory of the historically cumulated physical stock of materials (e.g. from 1950 to 2000) and then to forecast the expected amount of waste production as well as its environmental impact over the next 25 years (e.g. from 2000 to 2025), taking into account various growth scenarios and technological options to prevent and recycle waste.
Thus, the methodology provides a strategic planning assessment tool that is able to deliver a scientific support to policy but can also be considered as a risk assessment-like analysis, capable of supporting procurement policies by focussing on a particular material within a specific business sector (e.g. copper in the automotive industry).
As all the data is currently gathered in spreadsheets, the Technology Readiness Level may be estimated to 3 on the TRL scale, according to the scope of the sixth framework programme, which provides public grant partial funding for R&D. The next step might be to design a user-friendly version, putting forward a software tool so that the data could be available through a website.