The OECD has proposed that its members strive as a long-range goal to decrease their materials intensity by a factor of ten.
In the industrialized economies particularly, technological innovations have led to greater efficiency in energy and materials use, with many products being reduced in size and weight through the use of lighter materials such as aluminium in place of steel, and plastics in place of metals. Improved technologies mean that recycling rates for many key raw materials have also increased. In addition, demand has shifted away from heavy goods towards less-material intensive products, consumer goods and service industries.
Other actions towards reaching a dematerialized economy include: redirecting fiscal systems to increase the prices of natural resources and to depenalize human labour; introducing incentive and disincentive systems, such as tradable permits for pollution, hunting, fishing, mining and the use of recreational land; articulating a fundamentally new vision of development policy, especially with respect to technology transfer; reforming the educational systems by integrating resource-preserving concepts at all levels; developing a new culture of learning that derives its concepts from an integrative, synthetic model as opposed to conventional reductionist approaches; reassessing the centrality of material, energy and land consumption; reversing/reorienting the incentive structures which presently discourage ecologically sensible behaviour; abolishing, shifting or reversing subsidies; reissuing codes and standards according to ecological guidelines; agreeing upon simple measures for assessing the ecological impact intensity of processes, infrastructures, systems, products and services; developing measures of real wealth; introducing internationally harmonized labelling and certification systems for processes, products and services; supporting the diffusion of know-how by issuing compendia of innovations and technological solutions; encouraging the trends in product design and service delivery toward more eco-efficient solutions; establishing islands of sustainability that are both carriers of social innovation and models of what is possible; encouraging research and development both in areas of sustainable technology and social change and adaptation; above all, stabilizing and decreasing global population by peaceful means and promoting equitable welfare worldwide.
In the USA, the per capita consumption of raw materials such as forestry products and metals has, measured by weight, declined steadily over the past twenty years. The World Resources Institute stated that the declining "materials intensity" of the economy -- that is, "the total material input and the hidden or indirect material flows, including deliberate landscape alterations" required for each dollar's worth of economic output -- supports the conclusion that economic activity is growing somewhat more rapidly than natural resource use.
Economic growth can, to some extent, be delinked from growth in resource use. Per capita use rates for steel, timber and copper, for example, have generally stabilized or even declined in the OECD countries. Resource intensity (the quantity of energy and materials required for constant economic output) has fallen by about 2 per cent per year since 1970 (Glyn 1995).