Industry has to handle two major cost factors: labor and materials. To improve competitiveness, companies usually try to optimize the personnel cost which leads, however, to augmentation of unemployment. In spite of this, materials costs are often higher than the cost for labor in producing industries. Beside this economic aspect lower materials consumption is also a benefit for the environment. In Germany, a program was started in 2004 by the German government to improve materials efficiency. A study has been undertaken to identify potential fields of improvement in the industry and potential measures to achieve improvements in materials efficiency. According to the results of the study improvement of materials efficiency can be achieved by application of interdisciplinary technologies, reduction of waste and cuttings (“zero-loss management”), improved product quality and optimization of construction and product design (“design to cost”). Another tool within the program is the competition for the German Materials Efficiency Award dedicated to small and medium-sized enterprises, given to best-practice examples of materials efficiency in small and medium-sized enterprises. The paper discusses the different categories of efficiency and the environmental impact of materials consumption considering the concept of TMR (Total Materials Requirement). With the concept of TMR (Total Materials Requirement) it is possible to express the total mass of primary materials extracted from nature including “hidden” flows to generate raw material for industrial production.