Consumption of heavy, complex products is hidden from official statistics. Is the US economy also dematerializing its use of metals? Probably, but it’s hard to say for sure. Paper and paperboard consumption peaked in 1999, and of timber in 2002. Both totals have since declined by more than 20 percent. Hickel concludes that there are no real environmental gains, only globalization of harms.
I mean literally. Hickel has stated that material footprint measures do not record the actual physical movement of materials within and among countries. Instead, they estimate the total weight of all the materials disturbed by humans around the world as they produce the goods they eventually consume. The DMC of a nation is always higher than its direct material consumption (DMC). But when offshoring is properly taken into account, dematerialization vanishes, he added.
In some rich countries is going up even as their consumption goes down, a paper by Hickel shows. The paper notes that in all these cases, the material footprint of nations continues to rise. Notably, DMC has been trending downward for some time in the US, UK, and Japan. It may recently have peaked for the European Union and OECD as well. However, it is also showing that many poor countries are now dematerializing.