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The current issues of landfill bans, groundwater contamination, waste-end taxes and source reduction of hazardous wastes have rekindled interest in a systems view of environmental management. While this recent interest is new, the basic concept is not. The physical Law of Conservation of Mass as embodied in materials or mass balance has underlain most residuals management research (e.g. Ayres and Kneese ; Kneese and Bower ). As society grapples with the complex problem of toxic and hazardous chemical residues and their distribution in the environment, mass balance is receiving renewed attention in the form of cross-media transfers. The focus of this renewed interest is the movement and transformation of residuals among environmental media (soil, air and water) after discharge. Our early public lessons in applied ecology taught us that the environment is a single integrated system and that there are frequently unintended consequences associated with the human use of that environment. The contemporary lessons from the identification and cleanup of uncontrolled hazardous waste sites under the “Superfund” program lends a new impetus to our reconsideration of these concepts.