Material flow accounts (env_ac_mfa)

Reference Metadata in Euro SDMX Metadata Structure (ESMS)

Compiling agency: Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union

Eurostat metadata
Reference metadata
1. Contact
2. Metadata update
3. Statistical presentation
4. Unit of measure
5. Reference Period
6. Institutional Mandate
7. Confidentiality
8. Release policy
9. Frequency of dissemination
10. Accessibility and clarity
11. Quality management
12. Relevance
13. Accuracy
14. Timeliness and punctuality
15. Coherence and comparability
16. Cost and Burden
17. Data revision
18. Statistical processing
19. Comment
Related Metadata
Annexes (including footnotes)

For any question on data and metadata, please contact: EUROPEAN STATISTICAL DATA SUPPORT


1. Contact Top
1.1. Contact organisation

Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union

1.2. Contact organisation unit

E2: Environmental statistics and accounts; sustainable development

1.5. Contact mail address

L-2920 Luxembourg, LUXEMBOURG

2. Metadata update Top
2.1. Metadata last certified 21/03/2019
2.2. Metadata last posted 21/03/2019
2.3. Metadata last update 21/03/2019

3. Statistical presentation Top
3.1. Data description

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. Like the system of national accounts, EW-MFA constitute a multi-purpose information system. The detailed material flows provide a rich empirical database for numerous analytical purposes. Further, EW-MFA are used to derive various material flow indicators.


This metadata refers to the following five datasets based on the EW-MFA data collection (see also the EW-MFA data structure in Annexes):

  • Material flow accounts (env_ac_mfa): this dataset provides detailed material input flows, in thousand tonnes per year, into (domestic extraction and physical imports) and out (physical exports) of an economy according to Regulation (EU) 691/2011.
  • Material flow accounts - domestic processed output (env_ac_mfadpo): this dataset provides detailed material flows, termed 'domestic processed output', from an economy to the environment in thousand tonnes per year.
  • Material flow accounts - balancing items (env_ac_mfabi): this dataset provides balancing items which are required to articulate a consistent material input-output balance of a national economy (in thousand tonnes per year).
  • Material flow accounts - main indicators (env_ac_mfain): this dataset provides highly aggregated EW-MFA and derived indicators:

- domestic extraction (DE): DE indicates the total amount of material extracted by resident units from the natural environment for further processing in the economy;

- imports (IMP): imports of products in their simple mass weight;

- exports (EXP): exports of products in their simple mass weight;

- physical trade balance (PTB): physical imports minus physical exports;

- direct material input (DMI): DMI indicates the direct input of material into the economy. DMI includes all materials which are of economic value and which are availble for use in production and consumption activities and it is calculated as the sum of domestic extraction plus physical imports: DMI = DE + IMP;

- domestic material consumption (DMC): DMC indicates the total amount of material actually consumed domestically by resident units. DMC of a given country's national economy can be calculated as direct material input minus physical exports: DMC = DMI – EXP. In general, DMC is additive across countries. However, this feature does not apply to Eurostat's EW-MFA dataset due to the methodology for calculating physical trade for the aggregated EU economy (see point 18.5 of metadata);

- domestic processed output (DPO): DPO indicates the amounts of solid, liquid and gaseous materials (excluding water and respiratory carbon dioxide) supplied by the national economy and taken up by the natural environment, particularly by the atmosphere;

- balancing items (BI): balancing items enable the balancing of material input and output related to a national economy. Two groupings of balancing items are distinguishable: BI to be added to material input, such as oxygen for combustion processes and respiration, and nitrogen; BI to be added to material output, such as water vapour from combustion and gases from respiration. 'Total BI' designates the difference between 'BI: input side' and 'BI: output side', i.e 'BI (input -output)';

- net additions to stock (NAS): NAS is a measure for the ‘physical growth of the economy’. Materials in form of buildings, infrastructures, durable goods such as e.g. cars, industry machinery, or household appliances are added to the economy’s material stock each year (gross additions), and old materials are removed from stock as buildings are demolished, and durable goods disposed of (removals). NAS is approximated using the following equation: NAS = DMC - DPO + BI (input-output).

  • Resource productivity (env_ac_rp): this dataset provides ratios of gross domestic product (GDP) over domestic material consumption (DMC) in various unit of measure (see also item 4 of metadata). The term 'resource productivity' designates an indicator that reflects the GDP generated per unit of resources used by the economy. This is typically a macro-economic concept that can be presented alongside labour or capital productivity.
3.2. Classification system

EW-MFA record physical flows of materials broken down by type of flow – e.g. domestic extraction (i.e. natural input), domestic processed output (i.e. residual), imports and exports (i.e. product) and by type of material. The breakdown by type of material employs a classification of materials which is addressed in this section. The classification of materials MF.1 to MF.6 is mentioned in the legal base of EW-MFA, namely Regulation (2011) 691, Annex III.

The EW-MFA classification of materials is hierarchical with main material flow categories (1-digit level); i.e. MF.1 to MF.8. Each main category is further broken down, maximal down to 4-digit-level (see also the EW-MFA data structure in Annexes):

  • 1-digit: material category;
  • 2-digit: material class;
  • 3-digit: material group;
  • 4-digit: material sub-group.

The type of material corresponds in a certain way to the type of flow. Most material categories have a one-to-one correspondence to a certain type of flow. The first four material categories MF.1 to MF.4 were initially designed for characterising domestic extraction of materials. The material categories MF.1 to MF.4 are also applied to physical imports and exports. the Annex presents these correspondences by cross-tabling the type of material (rows) with the type of flow (columns A, B, D, F and G, which correspond to the EW-MFA questionnaire tables). The main material categories MF.1 to MF.4 correspond to the following types of material flows: domestic extraction, physical imports, and physical exports. The material categories MF.5 and MF.6 apply to physical imports and physical exports. Material category MF.7 applies exclusively to domestic processed output; while MF.8 solely applies to balancing items.

The classification of MF.1 'biomass', MF.2 'metal ores', MF.3 'non-metallic mineral', and MF.4 'fossil energy materials/carriers' is based pragmatically on the statistical data sources employed to compile domestic extraction for these type of materials, e.g. agriculture, forestry, fishery, and energy statistics. A notable particularity of EW-MFA is the attribution of type of material to physical imports and physical exports. Physical imports and exports are flows of products for which one commonly employs product classifications such as e.g. the Classification of Products by Activity (CPA) or Combined Nomenclature (CN). In EW-MFA traded products are presented by type of material and not by product classification. For this, each CN code is assigned to one and only one MF class. For raw products (e.g. output from mining) this assignment to one and only one MF class is straightforward. However, the further processed the goods are the more they are composed of more than one material. The material-wise assignment of semi-manufactured and finished goods is ambiguous.

Domestic processed outputs are hierarchically classified. Five categories are distinguished at 2-digit level:

  • MF.7.1 Emissions to air;
  • MF.7.2 Waste disposal to the environment;
  • MF.7.3 Emissions to water;
  • MF.7.4 Dissipative use of products;
  • MF.7.5 Dissipative losses.

The final category (MF.8) is for the balancing items on the input and output side. Balancing items are a particularity of EW-MFA. They are only introduced for balancing purposes, i.e. needed to establish a material balance for the entire national economy, and are not to be included in the indicators derived from the accounts. Balancing items include two categories: items to be added to material inputs such as oxygen for combustion processes and respiration, and nitrogen; items to be added to material outputs such as water vapour from combustion and gases from respiration. On the input side balancing items constitute natural inputs; on the output side balancing items constitute residuals.

3.3. Coverage - sector

The data refer to national economies as defined in the system of national accounts.

3.4. Statistical concepts and definitions

Conceptually economy-wide material flow accounts (EW-MFA) belong to the international system of environmental economic accounting (SEEA-Central Framework). Furthermore, EW-MFA is one of several physical modules of Eurostat's programme on European environmental economic accounts. It is covered by Regulation (EU) No. 691/2011 on European environmental economic accounts.

EW-MFA are closely related to concepts and definitions of national accounts. Most notably they follow the residence principle, i.e. they record material flows related to resident unit's activities, regardless where those occur geographically.

Further methodological guidelines are provided in various publications by Eurostat (see Eurostat website > Environment > Methodology, heading: 'Material flows and resource productivity').

3.5. Statistical unit

Statistical units differ, depending on the different data sources (e.g. agriculture, forestry and fishery statistics, production statistics, geological surveys, energy statistics, international trade in goods etc.) used to compile EW-MFA.

3.6. Statistical population

EW-MFA include all materials (excluding water and air) crossing the system boundary of the economy's reporting on the input side or on the output side. The economy is demarcated by the conventions of the national accounting system (resident units). In Eurostat's EW-MFA material inputs to the economy cover extractions of natural resources (excluding water and air) from the natural environment and imports of material products (goods) from the rest of the world economy (ROW). Material outputs are disposals of materials to the natural environment and exports of material products and waste to the ROW. Information on natural resources extracted and traded products is provided by different statistical units.

3.7. Reference area

European Union (as aggregate and for each Member State); EFTA countries; candidate countries.

3.8. Coverage - Time

Dataset 'material flow accounts' (env_ac_mfa): data are annual and may start with the year 1990 (EU aggregate since 2000).

Dataset 'material flow accounts - domestic processed output' (env_ac_mfadpo): data are annual and may start with the year 1990 (EU aggregate since 2000).

Dataset 'material flow accounts - balancing items' (env_ac_mfabi): data are annual and may start with the year 1990 (EU aggregate since 2000).

Dataset 'material flow accounts - main indicators' (env_ac_mfain): data are annual and may start with the year 1990 (EU aggregate since 2000).

Dataset 'resource productivity' (env_ac_rp): data are annual and may start with the year 2000 (EU aggregate since 2000).

3.9. Base period

Index series are provided for the reference year 2000 (see below item 4 "Unit of measure").

4. Unit of measure Top

The datasets 'material flow accounts' (env_ac_mfa) and 'material flow accounts - main indicators' (env_ac_mfain) provide data in thousand tonnes, tonnes per capita (using the indicator 'Average population - total') and Indices (2000=100).


The datasets 'material flow accounts - domestic processed output' (env_ac_mfadpo) and 'material flow accounts - balancing items' (env_ac_mfabi) provide data in thousand tonnes, tonnes per capita (using the indicator 'Average population - total').


Various units are employed for the data set 'resource productivity' (env_ac_rp) depending on which type of GDP (current price or volume figures) has been used for the ratio:

  • 'Euro per Kilogram' (GDP in current prices), to be used to analyse a single country at one point in time (for one particular year);
  • 'PPS per Kilogram' (GDP in current pricec expressed in Purchasing Power Standards). Purchasing Power Standards are fictive 'currency' units that remove differences in purchasing power, hence eliminate differences in price levels across countries; to be used when comparing across countries at one point in time;
  • 'Euro 2010-based chain linked volumes per kilogram' (GDP in chain-linked volumes normalised to 2010 prices). Volume figures show the development of aggregates excluding inflation; to be used when comparing over time (various years) one single country;
  • 'Index, 2000=100' (based on GDP in chain-linked volumes normalised to 2010 prices).

5. Reference Period Top

The data refer to the calendar years.

6. Institutional Mandate Top
6.1. Institutional Mandate - legal acts and other agreements

Economy-wide material flow accounts (EW-MFA) are legally covered by Regulation (EU) 691/2011 on European Environmental Economic Accounts.

6.2. Institutional Mandate - data sharing

Not applicable.

7. Confidentiality Top
7.1. Confidentiality - policy

Regulation (EC) No 223/2009 on European statistics (recital 24 and Article 20(4)) of 11 March 2009 (OJ L 87, p. 164), stipulates the need to establish common principles and guidelines ensuring the confidentiality of data used for the production of European statistics and the access to those confidential data with due account for technical developments and the requirements of users in a democratic society.

7.2. Confidentiality - data treatment

Confidential data are flagged 'c)' and not published. For aggregates of confidential data Eurostat's rules for confidentiality are respected.

8. Release policy Top
8.1. Release calendar

The deadline for the annual EW-MFA questionnaire is 31 December (T- 2 years, where T = reference year). After validation the gap-filled data are published in Eurostat's online database around March (T+3 months).

Early estimates for the two years following the mandatory reference year are published around June at T - 1 year (at the most detailed material category breakdown) and at T+6 months (only for the main material categories).

8.2. Release calendar access

Not applicable.

8.3. Release policy - user access

In line with the Community legal framework and the European Statistics Code of Practice Eurostat disseminates European statistics on Eurostat's website (see item 10 - 'Accessibility and clarity') respecting professional independence and in an objective, professional and transparent manner in which all users are treated equitably. The detailed arrangements are governed by the Eurostat protocol on impartial access to Eurostat data for users.

9. Frequency of dissemination Top

See above item 8.1.

10. Accessibility and clarity Top
10.1. Dissemination format - News release

A news release on resource productivity is published every year in July in the Eurostat web site.

10.2. Dissemination format - Publications

Statistics explained: Material flow accounts and resource productivity, Physical imports and exports, Resource productivity statistics

10.3. Dissemination format - online database

Please consult data on Eurostat's online database:  Material flows and resource productivity (env_mrp)

10.4. Dissemination format - microdata access

Not applicable.

10.5. Dissemination format - other

Not applicable.

10.6. Documentation on methodology

Information (e.g. manuals, electronic questionnaires) is available on Eurostat's website.

10.7. Quality management - documentation

Every year Eurostat provides an overall evaluation of EW-MFA data quality based on national quality reports sent by member states along with the questonnaires.

11. Quality management Top
11.1. Quality assurance

To ensure quality of the data Eurostat implements the following procedures/guidelines:

1) Methodological guidelines to assist countries in compiling EW-MFA;

2) Extensive validation procedure of the data received. The validation tools check:

  • consistency (several cells check, validation level 1);
  • plausibility with an extra check for fluctuations between two consecutive years;
  • illegal symbols (cell by cell check, validation level 1)
  • illegal footnotes

The validation procedure offers a gap overview, the response rate and an annual plausibility that enables the comparison of data for common reporting years between the previous and the current questionnaire which constitutes a validation check at level 2.

3) Gap-filling of missing statistical information (see also item 18.5).

11.2. Quality management - assessment

Quality management is good. Validation procedures, estimation of missing statistical data (gap-filling) and quality reporting are in place. The Environmental Accounts Working Group, encompassing representatives of all Member States, Eurostat and other stakeholders, discusses quality improvements.

EW-MFA is a relatively mature data collection which started in 2013 according to Regulation 691/2011. Data quality could still be improved in particular for some quantitative important elements which need to be estimated (e.g. sand and gravel extraction, grazed biomass).

12. Relevance Top
12.1. Relevance - User Needs

The users include policy makers in environmental ministries, environmental organisations, researchers, students and interested citizens.

The indicator 'Resource Productivity' is the lead indicator of the EU resource efficiency flagship initiative under the Europe 2020 strategy.

More information on the policy context is set here.

12.2. Relevance - User Satisfaction

There are no systematic studies of user satisfaction. Eurostat has regular hearings with European policymakers and contacts with the research community and other stakeholders to monitor the relevance of the statistics produced and identify new priorities.

12.3. Completeness

Data are complete for mandatory tables of EW-MFA questionnaire. Data for all Member States and EU aggregates are available starting from the year 2000. In case of missing data, Eurostat gap-fills the missing information.

13. Accuracy Top
13.1. Accuracy - overall

Notwithstanding EW-MFA stem from a variety of data sources (e.g. agriculture, forestry and fishery statistics, production statistics, geological surveys, energy statistics, foreign trade statistics etc.) the overall accuracy is considered to be good.

13.2. Sampling error

Not applicable.

13.3. Non-sampling error

Not applicable.

14. Timeliness and punctuality Top
14.1. Timeliness

Eurostat collects economy-wide material flow accounts data from national statistical institutes (NSI) via an annual questionnaire (see 6.1 for legal base). Reporting deadline for the questionnaire is 31 December (mandatory T - 2 years; about half of the NSIs usually report already T - 1 year).

Eurostat publishes data in two waves (see also 8.1):

  • March (T+3 months): data as reported by NSI after validation by Eurostat.
  • June:

- (T-1 year): If not reported by NSI, Eurostat estimates on the basis of national and international data sources;
- (T+6 months): Eurostat estimates based on exogenous predictors (e.g. gross value added, volume indices of production etc.).

14.2. Punctuality

All Member States are currently able to meet the transmission deadline. Eurostat publishes preliminary aggregates using, if necessary, estimates for missing countries.

15. Coherence and comparability Top
15.1. Comparability - geographical

The comparability across countries is good due to clear statistical concepts and definitions. However, the national data sources used for the compilation of EW-MFA by the national statistical institutes may differ in scope and quality.

15.2. Comparability - over time

The comparability over time is good due to clear statistical concepts and definitions. Revisions in methodolgy are usually applied backwards to the entire timeseries.

15.3. Coherence - cross domain

The data are coherent with national accounts and environmental-economic accounts.

15.4. Coherence - internal

The internal coherence is very high, ensured by the accounting framework.

16. Cost and Burden Top

Depending on the level of automatisation the costs and burden range from 5 to 40 person-days per country and approx. 100 person-days for Eurostat.

17. Data revision Top
17.1. Data revision - policy

Every year Eurostat publishes the complete time series, which may lead to revisions of data previously published.

17.2. Data revision - practice

Each year the EW-MFA questionnaire requests the entire time series. If data are revised by countries, it is done for the complete time series.

18. Statistical processing Top
18.1. Source data

Member States compile the EW-MFA based on a variety of administrative data sources (e.g. agriculture, forestry and fishery statistics, production statistics, geological surveys, energy statistics, foreign trade statistics etc.). In some cases estimation procedures are applied where no adminsitrative data sources are available. Eurostat provides standardised estimation procedures.

18.2. Frequency of data collection

Data are collected annually.

18.3. Data collection

EW-MFA data collection is regulated by Regulation (EU) No. 691/2011 on European environmental economic accounts.

The annual EW-MFA questionnaire is available on Eurostat's website. Eurostat receives the questionnaires via eDAMIS (electronic Data files Administration and Management Information System), the standard tool for the transmission of data and metadata to Eurostat. The system provides a secure environment for the transmission of data, offers logging of all transmissions and sends confirmations of delivery.

18.4. Data validation

Data are extensively checked by Eurostat using comprehensive validation procedures (IT tools). Checks are carried out essentially to ensure that the transmission of the requested data has been carried out satisfactorily, that datasets are complete and error-free.

Where necessary, Eurostat gap-fills missing data using national and international data sources (e.g. foreign trade statistics, agriculture statistics, energy statistics, production statistics etc.).

18.5. Data compilation
  • Methodology for the estimates of the EU aggregates:

Eurostat derives EU aggregates bottom-up, i.e. by summing up country data, except for physical imports and exports.

Eurostat derives physical trade for the aggregated EU economy (which is extra-EU imports and exports for EU countries) using Comext, i.e. Eurostat's reference database for detailed European statistics on international trade in goods (ITGS), to overcome the quasi-transit issue. Comext consistently includes 'quasi transit' flows and is used to sum up extra-EU imports and extra-EU exports, with EU-aggregate as reporter.

There is some evidence that countries report extra-EU-trade based on two different concepts: some countries exclude 'quasi transit' whereas others include it. Quasi-transit occurs whenever goods are brought into, or taken out of, a Member State to be declared there as imports/exports for customs or tax purposes without this Member State having acquired ownership of the goods. Quasi-transit concerns imports in a Member State of goods which are exported without changing ownership to a resident of that Member State. In contrast to 'simple transit', quasi-transit has to be recorded in ITGS. However, some Member States (countries with important ports such as Belgium, the Netherlands and Slovenia) exclude goods in quasi-transit from the results published at national level to enhance the economic relevance of their national figures. It can be assumed that some countries record the 'quasi transit' flow received from such a country (e.g. like Belgium) as intra-EU-import and not as an extra-EU-import (and vice versa). This brings about indirect knock-on effects on the external trade figures of other Member States. For example, 'EU-country A' excludes an extra-EU import because it is quasi-transit to 'EU-country B' or 'C'; at the same time 'EU-country B' and 'C' report the same flow as intra-EU-import and they do not correct their extra-EU imports upwards. Hence, it can be assumed - and it has been verified by an analysis undertaken by Eurostat - that the sum over all Member States of reported extra-EU-imports is too low.


Please note that due to the methodology for estimating physical trade for the aggregated EU economy, extra-EU imports and exports are not not additive across Member States, i.e. adding up their trade figures does not yield imports or exports of the aggregated EU economy. As a result, the indicator DMC loses its additive feature (see point 3.1 of metadata).


Adjustment for residence principle: fuel bunkered by resident units abroad (item MF 4.2.3 of the EW-MFA questionnaire Table B): this item of the EW-MFA classification is estimated for the aggregated EU economy. Based on historical data it is assumed to be 8% of the total extra-EU imports extracted from COMEXT. On the contrary, the adjustment for residence principle: fuel bunkered by non-resident units domestically (item MF 4.2.3 of the EW-MFA questionnaire Table D) is already included in Comext ITGS as supplies on the territory of the reporting country to ships and aircraft which are destined to leave the territory of this country on-board.


  • Methodology for early estimates:

Eurostat produces early estimates at two stages:

-  T-1 year (June) at the most detailed material breakdown for each EU Member State and the aggregated EU. The early estimates are compiled in a similar way as the gap-filling  from national and international data sources (e.g. foreign trade statistics, agriculture statistics, energy statistics, production statistics etc.).

T+6 months (June) for the 4 main material categories for each EU Member State and the aggregated EU. The early estimates of domestic extraction (DE) are based on statistical modelling (mainly regression-type models). For each of the main material categories a number of potential predictors have been identified which are available by the middle of the year (e.g. gross value added by NACE sections, production volume indices from short term business statistics, monthly energy statistics etc.). Predictors and prediction models are country and material flow category specific. The early estimates for imports and exports are based on Eurostat's foreign trade database (either absolute values or annual change rates).

18.6. Adjustment

Not applicable.

19. Comment Top

Not applicable.

Related metadata Top
env_ac_rme_esms - Material flow accounts in raw material equivalents - modelling estimates

Annexes Top
Methodological documents and questionnaires
MFA data structure (Excel)