Material Footprint Assessment in a Global Input-Output Framework

Stefan Giljum, Martin Bruckner, Aldo Martinez Pinanez

Publication: Scientific journalJournal articlepeer-review

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Material flow-based indicators play an important role in measuring green and resource-efficient growth. This article examines the global flows of materials and the amounts of materials directly and indirectly necessary to satisfy domestic final demand in different countries world-wide. We calculate the indicator Raw Material Consumption (RMC), also referred to as material footprint (MF), by applying a global, multiregional input-output model based on the Global Trade Analysis Project (GTAP) database and extended by material extraction data. We examine world-wide patterns of material extraction and materials embodied in trade and consumption, investigating changes between 1997 and 2007. We find that flows of materials related to international trade have increased by almost 60% between 1997 and 2007. We show that the differences in MFs per capita are huge, ranging from up to 100 tonnes in the rich, oil-exporting countries to values as low as 1.5 to 2.0 tonnes in some developing countries. We also quantify the differences between the indicators Domestic Material Consumption (DMC) and RMC, illustrating that net material exporters generally have a DMC larger than RMC, whereas the reverse is observed for net importers. Finally, we confirm the fact that most countries with stable or declining DMCs actually show increasing RMCs, indicating the occurrence of leakage effects, which are not fully captured by DMC. This challenges the world-wide use of DMC as a headline indicator for national material consumption and calls for the consideration of upstream material requirements of international trade flows.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)792 - 804
JournalJournal of Industrial Ecology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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