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What is Materials Management?

The State of Oregon has a 2050 Vision in which Oregonians produce and use materials responsibly, conserve resources, protect the environment and live well. To accomplish this, DEQ uses a whole life cycle materials management approach to reduce the impacts of materials we use.
Materials management is an approach to serving human needs by using/reusing resources most productively and sustainably throughout their life cycles, generally minimizing the amount of materials involved and all the associated environmental impacts. This approach presents rich and transformative opportunities for DEQ and all Oregonians to better protect our environment.

What are materials?

When we say “materials,” we’re referring to non-fuel materials that flow through our economy: paper, plastic, metal, glass, food, wood, etc. Materials include those that are important for their structural properties (e.g. paper, plastics, metals, concrete) and those that are important as energy carriers to humans (e.g. food) and machines (e.g. fuels). All of these materials impact the environment, and Oregon’s 2050 Vision calls for us to reduce these impacts, whether the materials are made here in Oregon, or made elsewhere and simply used here.
Materials matter because they are central to our economy, our environment and our communities. The extraction, manufacturing, transport, use, and disposal of materials has profound impacts on the air we breathe, the water we drink, the productivity of our soils and the health of numerous ecosystems. 

How is materials management different from zero waste and the circular economy?

Sustainability is a complex topic, but generally it is concerned with reducing environmental impacts, conserving resources and improving living conditions. At DEQ, we use the (Sustainable) Materials Management framework, because it allows us to set science-based targets and measure progress against them. Examples of other common frameworks include Zero Waste and Circular Economy.
More information about our sustainability approach and ways that all of these frameworks can work together, is available in DEQ's Comparison of Sustainability Frameworks report.

Materials management takes a holistic view of the environment impacts across the full life cycle of materials (shown above), as well as actions that can be taken to reduce those impacts.


Katie Romano
Materials Management Program