question: how can the use of materials be reduced and what industries may benefit the most from the increased efficiency?

We currently live in a throw-away society – not enough is recycled and staggering amounts of waste are produced. While each segment of society contributes to this, industry is the biggest offender.

For instance, steel, which is used more than all other metals combined, is essential to the automobile, household appliance and construction industries. Even with such a large role in society, enough steel is thrown away each year to meet the needs of the entire United States’ automobile industry. Furthermore, producing steel from recycled scrap takes only 26 percent as much energy as production from iron ore. Recycled plastic uses only 20 percent as much energy. Recycled paper requires far fewer chemicals for processing and only 64 percent as much energy for production. Aluminum requires a mere 4 percent as much energy when recycled. As an added bonus, these resources can be recycled indefinitely and recycling decreases the overall demand for raw materials required.

Other options include restructuring the transportation system to improve efficiency and reduce waste by replacing cars with light rail and buses and eliminating energy-intensive, but non-essential industries, such as the production of gold jewelry, plastic bags, and bottled water.