Economy-wide material flow-based indicators

A large number of resource-use indicators can be derived from economy-wide material flow accounts. These indicators can be grouped into (a) input, (b) output, (c) consumption and (d) trade indicators. The main input and consumption indicators, which are most frequently applied in MFA studies on the national level, are illustrated in the following figure.

Main input indicators:

  • Direct Material Input (DMI) comprises all materials with economic value which are directly used in production and consumption activities. DMI equals the sum of domestic extraction and imports.
  • Raw Material Input (RMI) adds the used part of the Raw Material Equivalents (RME) of imports to DMI.
  • Total Material Requirement (TMR) includes - in addition to RMI - unused domestic extraction and the unused RMEs of imports. TMR is thus the most comprehensive material input indicator, comprising all input flows.

Main consumption indicators:

  • Domestic Material Consumption (DMC) measures the total quantity of materials used within an economic system, excluding indirect flows. Thus DMC is the closest equivalent to aggregate income in the conventional system of national accounts. DMC is calculated by subtracting exports from DMI.
  • Raw Material Consumption (RMC) deducts the export plus the used RMEs of exports from RMI.
  • Total Material Consumption (TMC) includes, in addition to RMC, also the unused parts of RMEs associated with imports and exports. TMC equals TMR minus exports and their RMEs.

Other MFA indicators include the following:

  • Domestic Processed Output (DPO) equals the flow „outputs to nature“ and comprises all outflows of used materials from domestic or foreign origin. DPO includes emissions to air and water, wastes deposited in landfills and dissipative flows.
  • Total Domestic Output (TDO) represents the environmental burden of materials use, i.e. the total quantity of material outputs to the environment caused by economic activity. TDO equals DPO plus unused domestic extraction.
  • Net Additions to Stock (NAS) reflect the physical growth of the economy, i.e. the net expansion of the stock of materials in buildings, infrastructures and durable goods. NAS may be calculated indirectly as the balancing item between the flow of materials entering the economy minus those leaving it, taking into account the appropriate items for balancing. NAS may also be calculated directly as gross additions to material stocks, minus removals (such as construction and demolition wastes and disposed durable goods, excluding materials recycled).
  • Physical Trade Balance (PTB) expresses whether resource imports from abroad exceed resource exports of a country or world region and thus illustrates to what extent domestic material consumption is based on domestic resource extraction or on imports from abroad. A PTB can either be compiled for direct material flows (physical imports minus physical exports) or additionally including indirect flows associated with imports and exports.  

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