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Use of raw materials in the United States from 1900 through 2014

August 22, 2017

The economic growth of an industrialized nation such as the United States requires raw materials for construction (buildings, bridges, highways, and so forth), defense, and processing and manufacture of goods and services. Since the beginning of the 20th century, the types and quantities of raw materials used have increased and changed significantly. This fact sheet quantifies the amounts of raw materials (other than food and fuel) that have been used in the U.S. economy annually for a period of 115 years, from 1900 through 2014. It provides a broad overview of the quantity (weight) of nonfood and nonfuel materials used in the economy and illustrates the use and significance of raw nonfuel minerals in particular as building blocks of society.

These data have been compiled to help the public and policymakers understand the changing annual flow of raw materials put into use in the United States. Such information can be helpful in assessing the potential effects of materials use on the environment, assessing materials’ intensity of use, and examining the role that these materials play in the economy. The data presented indicate the substitution and shift in materials usage from renewable to nonrenewable materials during the 20th century. The disaggregated quantities by commodity (not shown in this fact sheet) may be tested against supply adequacy and end of life issues.

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