Consumption-based Material Flow Accounting

In 2007, imports accounted for approximately 34% of the material input (domestic extraction and imports) into the Austrian economy and almost 60% of the GDP stemmed from exports. Upstream material inputs into the production of traded goods, however, are not yet included in the standard framework of material flow accounting (MFA). We have reviewed different approaches accounting for these upstream material inputs, or raw material equivalents (RME), positioning them in a wider debate about consumption-based perspectives in environmental accounting. For the period 1995-2007, we calculated annual RME of Austria's trade and consumption applying a hybrid approach. For exports and competitive imports, we used an environmentally extended input-output model of the Austrian economy, based on annual supply and use tables and MFA data. For noncompetitive imports, coefficients for upstream material inputs were extracted from life cycle inventories. The RME of Austria's imports and exports were approximately three times larger than the trade flows themselves. In 2007, Austria's raw material consumption was 30 million tonnes or 15% higher than its domestic material consumption. We discuss the material composition of these flows and their temporal dynamics. Our results demonstrate the need for a consumption-based perspective in MFA to provide robust indicators for dematerialization and resource efficiency analysis of open economies.

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