Methodology and Indicators of Economy-wide Material Flow Accounting

This contribution presents the state of the art of economy-wide material flow accounting. Starting from a brief recollection of the intellectual and policy history of this approach, we outline system definition, key methodological assumptions, and derived indicators. The next section makes an effort to establish data reliability and uncertainty for a number of existing multinational (European and global) material flow accounting (MFA) data compilations and discusses sources of inconsistencies and variations for some indicators and trends. The results show that the methodology has reached a certain maturity: Coefficients of variation between databases lie in the range of 10% to 20%, and correlations between databases across countries amount to an average R2 of 0.95. After discussing some of the research frontiers for further methodological development, we conclude that the material flow accounting framework and the data generated have reached a maturity that warrants material flow indicators to complement traditional economic and demographic information in providing a sound basis for discussing national and international policies for sustainable resource use.