Material flows and resource productivity Material flows and resource productivity

What are economy-wide material flow accounts (EW-MFA) and what are they for?

Economy-wide material flow accounts (EW-MFA) provide an aggregate overview, in thousand tonnes per year, of the material flows into and out of an economy. EW-MFA cover solid, gaseous, and liquid materials, except for bulk flows of water and air.

The general purpose of EW-MFA is to describe the interaction of the domestic economy with the natural environment and the rest of the world economy in terms of flows of materials (excluding water and air). EW-MFA is a statistical framework conceptually embedded in environmental-economic accounts and fully compatible with concepts, principles, and classifications of national accounts – thus enabling a wide range of integrated analyses of environmental, energy and economic issues e.g. through environmental-economic modelling.

Material inputs into national economies include domestic extraction of material originating from the domestic environment and physical imports originating from other economies. Material outputs from national economies include materials released to the domestic environment (e.g. emissions to air, water and soil) and physical exports to other economies. Material flows within the economy are not represented in EW-MFA.

A variety of material flow-based indicators are derived from EW-MFA, for example domestic material consumption (DMC) which is a prominent policy indicator in the context of the EU Resource Efficiency initiative.

Data collection and publication

Eurostat undertakes annual data collections which are covered by Regulation (EU) 691/2011 consolidated version (Annex III). The EW-MFA questionnaire as well as compilation guidelines can be found on the Environment – methodology webpage.  

EW-MFA data are downloadable from Eurostat's online database. Three data sets are available:

  • Material flow accounts (env_ac_mfa): it includes basic data collected with the EW-MFA questionnaire.
  • Resource productivity (env_ac_rp): resource productivity is the policy indicator relating gross domestic product (GDP) – measured in various units – to the main material flow indicator domestic material consumption (DMC).
  • Material flow accounts in raw material equivalents (MFA-RME) - modelling estimates (env_ac_rme): extension to the standard EW-MFA to include the 'material footprint' indicator raw material consumption - RMC. It is based on environmental-economic modelling.

In order to facilitate compiling extended material flow accounts at the country level, Eurostat has published the 'Country RME tool', accompanied by the 'Handbook country RME tool' and a set of five data input files. This tool allows the user to estimate country-level estimates of flows in raw material equivalents (RME), such as imports and exports in RME, raw material input (RMI) and raw material consumption (RMC).