Material flow accounts provide a statistical framework measuring natural resource extraction, trade in natural resources, waste disposal and emissions. Domestic material consumption and material footprint, including by extraction type (biomass, fossil fuels, metal ores and non-metallic minerals), are seen as a proxy for overall environmental pressure within a national economy and the impact of a national economy on the environment. This document builds upon the existing experiences of compiling economy-wide material flow accounts in Europe and provides global guidance on compile material flow accounts which can be used by national statistical systems around the world.

Minimal MFA

Main inputs and outputs of China Steel (CSC) in 2013.
KUO-CHUNG LIU, Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, China Steel Corporation

Phosphorus budgets in Everglades wetland ecosystems: the effects of hydrology and nutrient enrichment

Phosphorus budgets for oligotrophic wet prairie/slough Everglades wetland ecosystems. Phosphorus budgets in Everglades wetland ecosystems: the effects of hydrology and nutrient enrichment. Gregory B. Noe and Daniel L. Childers

Modification of uncertainty analysis in adapted material flow analysis: Case study of nitrogen flows in the Day-Nhue River Basin, Vietnam

Material flow analysis (MFA) system for the Day–Nhue River basin. Dashed lines represent new nitrogen flows added after field observations. Note: livestock process (12) contains pig process (12a), poultry process (12b) and cattle process (12c) processes; field crop process (14) contains paddy (14a) and vegetable–fruit (14b).

Modification of uncertainty analysis in adapted material flow analysis: Case study of nitrogen flows in the Day-Nhue River Basin, Vietnam

Dynamic MFA of French Copper Cycle

French Copper MFA 2
Source: Marie Bonnina, Catherine Azzaro-Pantela, Luc Pibouleaua, Serge Domenecha, Jacques Villeneuveb, 2013. Development and Validation of a Dynamic Material Flow Analysis Model for French Copper Cycle.

French MFA for 2003.

Addis Ababa waste management MFA

Understanding Waste Management in a Megacity_waste sorting
Source: Nicolas Escalante, Agata Rymkiewicz, Martin Kranert, 2012. Understanding Waste Management in a Megacity - Experiences in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

From a source near and dear to my heart, as I have been working in Addis Ababa on waste management for the past year, comes this MFA diagram about the waste management sector.  Unfortunately, it is not quantified.

MFA of extruded aluminum in French buildings

Source: Billy, Romain, 2012. Material Flow Analysis of Extruded Aluminum in French Buildings: Opportunities and Challenges for the Implementation of a Window-to-Window System in France. Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Faculty of Engineering Science and Technology, Department of Hydraulic and Environmental Engineering.

It appears after the last post and this new publication that there is a trend towards a world with colored MFA diagrams now.  This MFA is one of three that together make up the aluminum cycle.

Urban-rural metabolism

urban rural metabolism
Source: R. Villarroel Walker, M. B. Beck, 2012. Understanding the metabolism of urban-rural ecosystems: A multi-sectoral systems analysis.

This paper has several MFA diagrams of various systems.  The graphic style uses unlikely color-filled boxes for certain actors.  The paper is available online from Urban Ecosystems.

Indonesian urban slum sanitation MFA

Indonesia MFA
Source: Ken USHIJIMA, Mitsuteru IRIE, Neni SINTAWARDANI, Jovita TRIASTUTI, Umi HAMIDAH, Tadaharu ISHIKAWA, Naoyuki FUNAMIZU, 2012. Sustainable design of sanitation system based on material and value flow analysis for urban slum in Indonesia

This MFA was created in partnership between Japanese and Indonesian universities.  The paper includes MFA and Value Flow Analysis (VFA… new blog?).  In trying to find the affordability to pay for waste services, they found that garbage and excreta costs are 0.7% and 1.1% respectively of per capita income.

Integrated water resources management

Source: T. A. Terekhanova, B. Helm, J. Traenckner and P. Krebs, 2012. IWRM decision support with material flow analysis: consideration of urban system input.

This MFA was created as part of a review of material flow analysis tools by the authors who examined the potential of MFA in the field of integrated water resources management (IWRM) in urban systems. In the above diagram, depicted emission pathways include Flows from combined sewer system diverted directly into receiving water object (C7) and Effluent from municipal WWTP (E1). I find the diagram to be compelling, and wonder how it would work as a base for a substance flow analysis looking at pollutants.

Ethanol production from corn stover


Liao, Wenjie, 2012. A thermodynamic perspective on technologies in the anthropocene : analyzing environmental sustainability.

Crystalline Silicon


Source: Hiroaki Takiguchi and Kazuku Morita, 2012. Global Flow Analysis of Crystalline Silicon. The University of Tokyo, Japan

This paper looks at the production of crystalline silicone, one of the basic ingredients of solar photovoltaic panels.

Material flow accounting of an Indian village

Source: Bruno Kestemont, Marc Kerkhove, 2010. Material flow accounting of an Indian village.

This illustrated MFA shows the synthetic ecosystem of an Indian village.  Created by scholars from Belgium, I would say this fits into the “Belgian School” of MFA diagrams, influenced by the urban metabolism of Brussels illustrated MFA diagram, as I posted earlier, with heavy reliance on cartoonish pictograms.  Noticeable symbiotic elements are the connection of the human waste and manure into the Silva and Saltrus grove, which then supplies the settlement with fuel wood.

Industrial symbiosis in Russia

Source: Olli Salmi, 2006. Eco-efficiency and industrial symbiosis – a counterfactual analysis of a mining community.

This MFA pertains to a non-realized industrial symbiosis project planned for the Russian Kola Science Center in mid-1980, in which the author investigates what may have been the benefit of the symbiotic system.  What is interesting about the specific methodology of this MFA is that several different materials are considered simultaneously in the various flows.  For example, one flow is “phosphate” while another is “cement”.  While the author does not go so far as to include energy flows in addition, it is noticeably different than single-material MFAs.

Aluminum in commercial vehicles in Europe


Source: Fabrice Mathieuxa, Daniel Brissaud, 2010. End-of-life product-specific material flow analysis. Application to aluminum coming from end-of-life commercial vehicles in Europe.

System definition and results of this MFA of aluminum in vehicles.  What is interesting about this research is the use of sub-systems to describe EU-15 and EU-10 (EU-15 is the member countries in the European Union prior to the accession of ten candidate countries on 1 May 2004). 

Dynamic MFA of steel in Chinese residences

Source: Mingming Hu, Stefan Pauliuk, Tao Wang, Gjalt Huppes, Ester van der Voet, Daniel B. Müller, 2009. Iron and steel in Chinese residential buildings: A dynamic analysis.

Some of the dynamics considered in this MFA are lifetime, birthrates, per capita floor area, and urbanization rates in China.  Previously, a dynamic material flow analysis (MFA) model was developed to analyze the dynamics of the rural and the urban housing systems in China. That model was expanded to analyze iron and steel demand and scrap availability from the housing sector.  In the diagram, a conceptual outline of the stock dynamics model, rectangles represent processes, ovals depict flows, hexagons illustrate determinants or drivers and dashed lines represent influences between variables.

Certainly interesting work from Chongqing University, Institute of Environmental Sciences, and Norwegian University of Science and Technology.  I am not that familiar with dynamic MFA, but I can certainly appreciate how it expands the static MFA methodology.

Illegible diagram of water in Queensland, Australia

Source: Gernot Stoeglehner, Peter Edwards, Peter Daniels, Michael Narodoslawsky, 2011. The water supply footprint (WSF): a strategic planning tool for sustainable regional and local water supplies.

Merry Christmas 2011, this year I present to you this unintelligible MFA from Australia.  I have never been a fan of the MFA diagram methodology that uses overly-large sankey arrows in comparison to the processes, but this takes it to another level by incorporating a background satellite image, gradients, transparency overlays of flows, and photos.  Plus there is a bonus sankey-distortion on the “discharge to ocean” flow on the right, which grows after turning right from the “sewerage and drainage services” process.

Phosphorus in Beijing

Source: Min Qiao, Yuan-Ming Zheng, Yong-Guan Zhu, 2011. Material flow analysis of phosphorus through food consumption in two megacities in northern China.

This simple MFA shows the phosphorus flows through food consumption in Beijing in 2008 (in tons).

MFA plus energy intensity of material methodology

Source: M. Federicia, S. Ulgiatib, R. Basosi, 2008. A thermodynamic, environmental and material flow analysis of the Italian highway and railway transport systems.

This fascinating methodology including MFA is a multi-method multi-scale of terrestrial transport modalities that reduces each case down to the equivalent amount of solar energy required.  I have often wondered how using solar gain in time per area could operate as a comparative tool, and here it is!  It is similar to the other MFA within a decision-making model that I covered in that the MFA result is cross-referenced with a database, in this case energy intensities of materials, to arrive at the desired result.

This methodology uses four different evaluation methods: material flow accounting (MFA), embodied energy analysis (EEA), exergy analysis (EXA) and emergy synthesis (ES).  The local framework encompasses the direct inputs supporting the transport activities: mass balance, energy analysis and EMIPS are used in this context. Global scale framework takes into account the indirect and hidden material and energy flows supporting the transportation process. Specific material, energy and emergy intensities are used to shift from local to global scale.

Personal Computer flows in Japan

Source: Aya Yoshida, Tomohiro Tasaki1, Atsushi Terazono, 2008. Material flow analysis of used personal computers in Japan.

This diagram is the system definition for the MFA study of PC flows in Japan.  The methodology is very precise.  They considered all flows except illegal dumping, as the origins of illegal dumping are unknown.


Source: Brandon Kuczenski, Roland Geyer, 2010. Material flow analysis of polyethylene terephthalate in the US, 1996–2007.

These two diagrams are the MFA scheme set-up for the research followed by the MFA diagram for PET flows in the year 2007.  In the sankey diagram, the dashed lines indicate upper bounds for highly uncertain flows.  I like how the import and export fractions of each flow are represented by small slivers peeling away from the main flows.

Substances within lithium batteries in Taiwan

Source: T.C. Changa, S.J. Youb, B.S. Yuc, K.F. Yaoa, 2008. A material flow of lithium batteries in Taiwan.

This diagram takes an interesting strategy for representing the substances within the flow of batteries in Taiwan, by indexing the quantities of Li, Co, Al, Cu and Ni per process.  The choice of flow arrows in unfortunate, but the message is clear.

Another Emergy diagram from Taiwan

Source: Shu-Li Huang, Chun-Lin Lee, Chia-Wen Chen, 2006. Socioeconomic metabolism in Taiwan: Emergy synthesis versus material flow analysis.

As discussed in an earlier post, Emergy is another species of flow analysis.  This diagram, from the same author who was referenced in the previous Emergy post, is in my opinion rather difficult to decipher.  The curvaceous nature of the flow lines leads to a breaking apart of the figure-ground relationship, wherein the viewer looks for meaning in shapes that are not processes.

Paper products in Korea

Source: Seok-jin Honga, Yoon-sil Choia, Kyoung-ryun Kima, Joon-gu Kangb, Gil-jong Ohb, Tak Hur, 2011. Material flow analysis of paper in Korea. Part I. Data calculation model from the flow relationships between paper products.

This neat diagram shows the material flows of paper in Korea.  I like how the different phases of the process are broken down into columns within the MFA, it increases the readability.  A slightly variation of graphic language is used, wherein stocks are represented by a double-wall box rather than within the process box, and losses and exports are shown as small arrows on the process box.  I think the authors may have missed labeling the landfill as a stock.

Industrial hazardous waste in USA, 1986

Source: Allen, David T. and R. Jain, 1992. Special issue on industrial waste generation and management.

Electrical appliances in Switzerland

Source: Claudia R. Binder, Raffaele Quirici, Svetlana Domnitcheva, and Beat Staubli, 2008. Smart Labels forWaste and Resource Management.

This Material Flow Analysis diagram shows electrical appliances in Switzerland (2002), flows are in kilograms per capita per year; stocks are in 1,000 kg/capita.  While there are stocks represented in household and commerce, the stocks for landfill and other treatment options are missing.  The high ratio of electronic waste that is separated and recycled is surprising.

Urban metabolism of Brussels

Source: Duvigneaud and Denaeyer-De Smet 1977. The urban metabolism of Brussels, Belgium in the early 1970s.

This fantastic diagram combines many sorts of representation into an early example of a urban metabolism analysis.  It is one of the earliest and most comprehensive studies by the ecologists Duvigneaud and Denaeyer-De Smet (1977).  It includes quantification of urban biomass and even organic discharges from cats and dogs.  While not strictly a MFA, it does incorporate Sankey-style flows and does consider flows and stocks in the system.

Spatial material flow in an assembly system

Source: Yossi Bukchini, Russell Meller, Qi Liu, 2005. Assembly system facility design.

This Material Flow Analysis diagram is a striking alternative application of MFA.  It addresses the design of an assembly system facility with several assembly lines of various shapes.  The above diagram shows the required material flows through the assembly system.

This paper addresses the design of an assembly system facility consisting of multiple assembly lines of different shapes. In such a design problem there are two conflicting objectives: (i) to minimize the overall area of the facility; and (ii) to maximize the efficiency of the material handling transportation system. We first address the optimization problem of objective (ii) when replacing objective (i) with a constraint on the facility area.  The objective function of the layout model is to minimize the distances traveled by material flow.

The problem is solved to optimize the assembly line in terms of space: