Material flow accounts

From Statistics Explained

Data from October 2014, most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database.

Eurostat’s material flow accounts are a comprehensive data framework that systematically records the inputs of materials to European economies, breaking them down by material category such as fossil energy materials, biomass, metal ores etc.

Various indicators are taken from the economy-wide material flow accounts framework — most prominently domestic material consumption (DMC), related to gross domestic product (GDP). These are used to monitor resource productivity in the context of the Europe 2020 Strategy.

Figure 1: Materials available to EU-27 economies and how they are used, 2013 (tonnes per capita)
Source: Eurostat (env_ac_mfa) (demo_gind)
Figure 2: Development of domestic extraction, physical imports and physical exports, EU-27 2000-2013 (Index 2000=100)
Source: Eurostat (env_ac_mfa) (demo_gind)
Figure 3: Resource productivity in comparison to GDP and DMC, EU-27, 2000-2013 (Index 2000=100)
Source: Eurostat (env_ac_mfa) (nama_gdp_k)
Figure 4: Domestic material consumption (DMC) by main material categories, EU-27, 2013 (tonnes per capita)
Source: Eurostat (env_ac_mfa) (demo_gind)
Figure 5: DMC by main material category, EU-27, 2000-2013 (Index 2000=100)
Source: Eurostat (env_ac_mfa)
Figure 6: DMC by country and main material category, 2013 (tonnes per capita)
Source: Eurostat (demo_gind) (env_ac_mfa)
Table 1: DMC - average annual change rates 2000-2013 by main material categories and countries (%)
Source: Eurostat (env_ac_mfa)

Main statistical findings

Material flow accounts present the amounts of materials (excluding water and air) that are physically available to EU economies. These material flows include the extractions of materials inside the EU's national economies and the physical imports (i.e. the mass weight of goods imported).

The following formula expresses the supply of materials to EU economies:

Domestic extraction + Physical imports = Direct material input

Domestic extraction is the aggregated amount of all materials extracted inside a national economy. For the aggregated EU-27 economy the domestic extraction amounted to 11.5 tonnes per capita in 2013. It is complemented by the import of products – measured as their mass weight when crossing the border. Imports from the rest of the world into EU-27 were around 3.1 tonnes per capita in 2013.

Imports combined with domestic extraction form an indicator called direct material input (DMI), i.e. the amount of materials that is actually available to the EU economy as a physical basis for domestic production activities. In 2013 DMI was 14.5 tonnes per capita for the aggregated EU-27 economy.

Material available to the economy can either be consumed within the economy or exported. This leads to the following equation on how materials are used:

Direct material input = Domestic material consumption + Physical exports

If one deducts the exports from the direct material input (DMI) the remaining materials constitute the domestic material consumption (DMC). In 2013 the DMC amounted to 13.2 tonnes per capita in the aggregated EU-27 economy. By comparison, the average global DMC is estimated to be around 10 tonnes per capita (see

The relationship between domestic extraction, DMI, DMC and imports and exports for the year 2013 is illustrated in figure 1.

Physical imports and exports

With 1.3 tonnes per capita, the EU-27's mass weight of exports was considerably lower than that of its imports (3.1 tonnes per capita). Another obvious pattern is that, until 2008, the trade components (physical imports and exports) increased whilst the domestic extraction remained more or less at the same level (see Figure 2). This indicates that the supply and use of materials has become increasingly interwoven with the global economy. During the crisis year of 2009, both physical imports and domestic extraction plunged, while physical exports only dropped slightly. Since 2009, physical exports increased substantially whereas physical imports remained more or less stable. For more information, see Physical imports and exports.

Resource productivity

The DMC indicator is linked to GDP to monitor resource productivity in the context of the Europe 2020 strategy (see also A resource-efficient Europe).

Resource productivity of the EU-27 economy - measured as the volume of gross domestic product (GDP) at market prices over DMC - increased by 31.5 % from 2000 to 2013, from 1.34 EUR/kg in 2000 to 1.76 EUR/kg in 2013. This corresponds to an average annual increase of 2.1 %. The average annual resource productivity growth rate was slightly above the volume growth rate of GDP during the reporting period (see Figure 3).

The development of the EU’s resource productivity has not been steady over time. This is at least partly due to the fact that 2009 was a year of economic recession (see Figure 3). After a constant increase between 2000 and 2003, resource productivity dropped in 2004. From there, it continued to grow regularly until 2008, before leaping from 1.47 to 1.66 EUR/kg from 2008 to 2010. The 2009 economic crisis affected the material intensive manufacturing and construction industries much more than the services industries. The DMC declined by 14 % between 2008 and 2010, i.e. dropping much more than GDP (see Figure 3). This decline was mainly determined by bulk materials such as construction and energy materials. For a more detailed analysis of the EU's resource productivity, see Resource productivity statistics.

Domestic material consumption

A more disaggregated analysis of DMC conveys the relative significance of various materials and their potential for reuse, recovery or recycling. The DMC of the aggregated EU-27 economy is dominated by non-metallic minerals (see Figure 4) making up nearly half of the DMC in 2013 (6.2 tonnes per capita). With 3.4 and 3.1 tonnes per capita respectively, biomass and fossil energy materials each make up approximately one fourth of DMC. Metal ores constitute the smallest of the main categories with 0.5 tonnes per capita.

Domestic material consumption of the main material categories over time

The four main material categories show different patterns of consumption over time. Material consumption of biomass is relatively stable over the long term, but can be impacted by strong annual fluctuations, due to climatic conditions. This underpins some of the annual DMC variations compared to GDP. Metal ores and non-metallic minerals show a strong dependency on economic development. The drop in material consumption of metal ores by one third in the crisis year of 2009 is quite remarkable. Both categories show an upward trend from 2000 to 2007 (8 and 17 % respectively) followed by an important downward trend from 2007 to 2013 (18 and 27 % respectively). Material consumption of fossil energy materials is much less affected by economic development yet shows a steady 19 % decrease from 2006 to 2013 (see Figure 5).

Domestic material consumption across EU Member States

Figure 6 shows the DMC by country and by main material category. Obviously, the composition by material category is influenced by domestic extraction and hence depends on each country's natural endowment with material resources. The latter may form an important structural element of the respective national economy. EU Member States with high per capita tonnages of biomass include Latvia, Ireland, Finland, Lithuania and Sweden. Forestry plays a major role in Latvia, Sweden, Finland and Lithuania. In Ireland, fodder crops and grazed biomass make up the biggest share. EU Member States with substantial amounts of fossil fuel extraction include Estonia (oil shale), Greece, the Czech Republic, Germany (lignite) and Denmark (natural gas and crude oil). Sweden, Bulgaria and Finland are characterised by significant metal ore extraction due to their mining industries. Non-metallic minerals constitute significant parts of DMC in countries such as Finland, Romania, Estonia, Ireland and Austria suggesting high levels of per capita construction activity. Malta constitutes an outlier at the bottom presumably due to its limited domestic material resources and hence its increased reliance on imports which tend to be much lighter than domestic extractions.

Population density may explain — at least partly — the differences between countries. More densely populated countries such as the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Germany and Italy tend to consume somewhat lower amounts than the EU-27 average.

Table 1 shows the trends of DMC for main material components across countries. For the EU-27 as a whole, non-metallic minerals and fossils energy materials were the main contributors to a decreasing trend. The larger EU Member States also tend to follow a general decreasing trend, caused mainly by sand and gravel and other non-metallic minerals. Several Member States that joined the EU after 2003 have seen an increasing trend in DMC over the 2000-12 period in more or less all material categories.

Raw material equivalents (RME) — towards a global perspective

Material flow accounting is based on the physical weight of extracted, traded or consumed goods. Domestic extraction of material resources is measured in tonnes of gross ore (or gross harvest). Imports and exports are measured in mass weight of goods crossing the border, regardless of how much the traded goods have been processed. The total weight of raw material extractions needed to produce manufactured goods is usually several times greater than the weight of the goods themselves.

DMC, the main material flow indicator, can be completed with supplementary analysis to estimate the amount of raw materials needed to produce traded goods. This can be done by converting the traded goods into their raw material equivalents, i.e. the amount of raw materials that need to be extracted to produce the traded goods in question. Eurostat has developed a model to estimate the RME of imports and exports for the aggregated EU-27 economy.

For 2012, Eurostat estimates the exports in RME to amount to 4.6 tonnes per capita which is 3.6 times as much as the simple weight of exported products. The import of goods in RME is estimated at 7.2 tonnes per capita which is over twice as much as the simple weight of imported products.

A detailed article on raw material equivalents is in preparation.

Data sources and availability

Eurostat collects economy-wide material flow accounts from the national statistical institutes (NSI) of the EU Member States, Norway, Switzerland and the candidate countries. Under the Regulation (EU) 691/2011 on European environmental economic accounts, the questionnaire is sent out every year and asks for data relating to the years up to the year Y-2 (Y being the year the questionnaire was sent out). About half of the countries usually also report on the year Y-1. The data sources used by the national statistical institutes to compile material flow accounts data may differ in scope and quality between countries.

Eurostat publishes data in three waves:

  • After validation, data are published in Eurostat's online database around March (T+27 months, T being the end of the reference year).
  • If not already reported by NSI, Eurostat makes early estimates for the year following the mandatory reference year, on the basis of national and international data sources. These are published around June (T+18 months).
  • Eurostat makes early estimates for the previous year (for the main material categories) based on existing economic data (e.g. gross value added, volume indices of production etc.). These are published around September (T+9 months).

EU data is currently only available for EU-27. Although data from Croatia is available, physical extra-EU trade data is based on EU-27, and a coherent data set for EU-28 could therefore not be established.

The imports and exports in raw material equivalents (RME) are estimated by Eurostat employing an econometric model.


Indicators derived from economy-wide material flow accounts have been gaining policy attention. DMC is used to measure resource productivity (i.e. GDP per DMC). It is the lead indicator of the EU initiative on resource efficiency.

See also

Further Eurostat information


Main tables

Material flows and resource productivity (t_env_mrp)


Material flows and resource productivity (env_mrp)
Material flow accounts (env_ac_mfa)

Dedicated section

Other information

Source data for tables and figures (MS Excel)