Forest products provide another clear example of dematerialization in the US. Total annual domestic consumption of paper and paperboard peaked in 1999, and of timber in 2002. Both totals have since declined by more than 20 percent. Could these be mirages caused by offshoring that’s not properly captured? That’s highly unlikely, as the country is now onshoring more than it’s offshoring. The US has been a net exporter of forest products since 2009 and is now the world’s largest exporter of these materials.

Is the US economy also dematerializing its use of metals? Probably, but it’s hard to say for sure. The USGS tallies do show dematerialization in steel, aluminum, copper, and other important metals. But these figures don’t include the metals contained in imports of finished goods like cars and computers. America is a net importer of manufactured goods, so it could be that we’re using more metal year

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