The Eco-Innovation Challenge

The Eco-Innovation Challenge

People in industrialised

countries consume

up to twenty times

more materials

than people in least

developed countries.


Box 2.1 | Indicators derived from material flow

analysis on the national level

Material use at the national level is measured with material flow accounting and analysis

(MFA). This is a method of environmental accounting from which a number of indicators can

be derived; the most widely applied being indicators on the material inputs and consumption

of countries (see also EUROSTAT (2007) and OECD (2007).

The system of MFA-based indicators is modular. The simplest input and consumption

indicators--Direct Material Input (DMI) and Domestic Material Consumption (DMC)--only

include direct material flows. These are already being compiled by national statistical offices

across Europe and are published by EUROSTAT, making them the most accessible MFAindicators

in terms of data availability. However, they are also regarded as problematic, as

a country can improve its performance simply by substituting domestic material extraction

with imports of processed materials and because indirect flows (also called the “ecological

rucksacks” of international trade), which are used along the production chain to produce a

traded good, are not accounted for (Moll and Bringezu 2005).

Therefore, indicators which are ‘safe’ against these distortions are preferable. The second

pair of indicators - Raw Material Input (RMI) and Raw Material Consumption (RMC) - include

indirect flows. Methods to calculate these indicators are currently being tested in pilot studies

both at the European (EUROSTAT) and national levels.

The final pair of indicators - Total Material Requirement (TMR) and Total Material Consumption

(TMC) additionally include “unused domestic extraction”, such as overburden from mining

activities, excavation materials or harvest losses in agriculture. It also includes, for instance,

the extractions of soil and earth for infrastructure deployment and maintenance or the “bycatch”

in fishing (which may be unintentionally killed). TMR and TMC are thus the most

comprehensive MFA-based indicators. The European Commission also envisages them as

the most desirable indicators for measuring material input and consumption (EUROSTAT

2009). However, data on TMR and TMC are only available for a few countries so far, but

the data situation is improving and the EIO intends to use existing data to the largest extent


In per capita terms, people in industrialised countries consume up to twenty times more

materials than people in least developed countries (Giljum et al. 2011). In Europe, around

14.5 tonnes per person (measured with the indicator RMC) were consumed in the year 2000,

whereas North Americans consumed around 32 tonnes and inhabitants of Oceania about

37 tonnes per person. By contrast, average material consumption was about 5.5 tonnes per

person in Asia and less than 5 tonnes in Africa (see Figure 2.1).

Worldwide material productivity (which is calculated by dividing GDP by RMC) was around

615 USD per tonne of natural materials used in 2000. However, while Europe and North

America produced output worth more than 1,000 USD with one tonne of material (1,080 and

1,029 USD per tonne respectively), material productivities in Asia, Oceania, Latin America

and Africa were below average (420, 419, 324 and 149 USD/kg respectively) (see Figure 2.2).

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