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Driving factors for material consumption in Sweden according to the IPAT equation, 2000–2016

Index (2000=100)


The development of the domestic material consumption (DMC) can be considered to be the result of the development in three different factors:

- The amount of material needed per product, i.e., the material consumption per unit of GDP, the material intensity (DMC/GDP) (T)
- The amount of products produced per person (GDP/capita) (A)
- The amount of people living in a country (population) (P).

These factors multiplied, result in the total material consumption (DMC) for the country in question. This decomposition is known as the IPAT equation, where I (environmental Impact) = P (Population) * A (Affluence) * T (Technology). Here we have the material consumption DMC as the environmental impact (I), and the equation then reads I (DMC) = P (population) * A (GDP/capita) * T (DMC/GDP). In the diagram above, these factors have been normalized to index numbers with year 2000 = 100.

The graph illustrates how the material intensity, DMC/GDP, has decreased slightly in Sweden during the period 2000–2016. This means that in 2016, less material was used per produced good or service. At the same time, material consumption is dependent on the development of the general economic welfare in the country (expressed as GDP/capita) and the population growth. Altogether, this means that the total material consumption for Sweden is growing, despite less material is used per product.

The growth in material consumption is also affected by natural events and the state of the world economy. For instance, the peak and the dip in the DMC curve for years 2005–2006 were the result of the storm Gudrun, which caused considerable fluctuations in the supply of biomass. In 2009, the dip in the curve was the result of the global financial crisis.

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