Material flows

The material flow accounts (EW-MFA for Economy-wide Material Flow Accounts) record in tonnes per year the quantity of materials used to produce and consume goods and services.

The input side takes into account domestic extraction and imports, the output side emissions and exports. The increase in society’s material stock can be obtained from the difference between input and output.

Quantity of material in tonnes per capita 1990 2000 2010 2017 20181
domestic extraction 10.0 8.4 8.0 7.2 7.0
unused domestic extraction 7.8 6.5 6.6 6.0 -
imports 6.9 6.3 6.6 6.4 6.1
exports 1.2 2.1 2.1 2.1 2.1
emissions to nature (direct processed output) 8.6 8.1 7.6 6.6 -
net addition to stock2 9.3 7.1 7.4 6.9 -
1 Estimates
2 without waste in landfills
Source: FSO – Environmental accounting

A country’s material consumption can be presented in the form of different indicators; a distinction is made between input and consumption indicators. Whereas input indicators include the materials used in Switzerland and abroad for production and consumption, the consumption indicators exclude exports. The consumption indicators thus take into account the consumption of materials that cover a country’s final demand needs. The term “material footprint” is also used in this context.

Imports and exports enter the accounts as direct flows but also as raw material equivalents (RME). Direct flows represent the actual quantities that cross the Swiss border. The RME flows represent the total mass of raw material extracted for the production and transport of goods and services until they cross the border. The RME indicators are the result of modelling and are less reliable than the indicators of direct flows.

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Methodologies

Data from the Economy-wide Material Flow Accounts (EW-MFA) are part of the environmental accounting produced by the Federal Statistical Office. The Methodology was developed by Eurostat, the European Union’s statistical office, on the basis of the UN’s System of Environmental and Economic Accounting (SEEA).

The EW-MFA are composite statistics based on different data sources. Estimates and extrapolations have to be made for flows for which there are no statistics. The EW-MFA are defined according to the residence principle by including consumption and emissions abroad by resident entities (e.g. a Swiss airline) and by excluding consumption and emissions made in Switzerland by non-residential entities (e.g. foreign heavy goods transport).

 

Material efficiency

Material efficiency is measured here by dividing real gross domestic product (GDP) by the raw material consumption (RMC). It thus represents the amount of added value generated per kilogramme of consumed material. An increase in this productivity means that the economy needs less material to produce the same amount of wealth, which can lead to the more sustainable management of resources. When GDP increases, so-called absolute decoupling occurs if the RMC decreases. This is also known as dematerialisation of the economy. If GDP increases and RMC stagnates or grows at a slower rate than GDP, relative decoupling occurs. Gross domestic product (GDP) is regularly calculated by the Federal Statistical Office for the National account (NA). To calculate material productivity, real GDP at the previous year’s prices is used, in chained series, with the reference year 2010.

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Federal Statistical Office Section Environment, Sustainable Development, Territory
Espace de l'Europe 10
CH-2010 Neuchâtel
Switzerland

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