This study has three goals:
- To increase the understanding of material flows moving through the City of Ann Arbor, Michigan;
- To develop a methodology by which community leaders may analyze material flows at a community level;
- To stimulate further research into the use of materials flow analysis (MFA).
Human needs such as shelter and transportation are satisfied by the flow of materials through our communities. While materials may provide multiple benefits, there are social, environmental, and economic costs associated with the extraction, processing, manufacturing, use, and disposal of these materials that may be reduced by improving the efficiency of material use in our communities. In this study, the efficiency of material flows is based on the community's ability to maximize the services provided per unit of mass of materials. The efficiency of material flows can be improved by reducing the mass of materials used to meet the needs of communities as long as the reduced flows still provide the same services and the change does not introduce greater social, economic and environmental costs elsewhere.