Resources, Waste and Climate Change
Decisions about how goods (such as food, plastic packaging, and building materials) are produced, transported, used, and disposed can make a big difference in the amount of the resources used, greenhouse gases emitted, environmental impacts created, and waste produced. Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and other environmental impacts associated with goods result from the energy, land, and water used to produce, transport, consume, and dispose them. According to the Global Resources Outlook 2019 report from the United Nations Environment Programme’s International Resource Panel, up to half the global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions stem from the extraction and processing of materials, fuels, and food. Reducing, reusing, recycling, and composting are strategies that can lessen the environmental impact of goods.
EPA is working to develop more information on the environmental, social, and economic impacts of goods and services, including in the areas of climate change, marine litter and environmental justice. We are improving our life cycle information and data on the potential impacts of the materials required to produce goods and services. This information, once available, can help stakeholders across the United States address the environmental, social, and economic impacts occurring domestically and internationally due to how goods are produced and consumed in the United States.
In 2009, EPA reallocated the GHG Emissions Inventory using a systems-based approach. EPA found that more than 40 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions result from production, transportation, use and disposal of material goods. A Sustainable Materials Management approach focuses on using and reusing resources efficiently and sustainably from extraction to end-of-life. It aims to generally minimize material use and all associated environmental impacts, including impacts to climate change.