16. Developments in indicators:
Total Material Requirement (TMR)

indicator policy issue DPSIR assessment
Total Material Requirement (TMR) decrease burden to global environment due to resource extraction pressure
domestic TMR decrease burden to domestic environment associated with resource extraction pressure
foreign TMR decrease burden to environment in foreign countries pressure
Direct Material Input (DMI) versus GDP improve materials productivity (processed materials only) response

Extraction of natural resources in EU Member States declined by 12 % between 1985 and 1995, but imported resources increased by 8 % between 1995 and 1997. The Direct Material Input (DMI) in the economy fell by 8 % on a per capita basis at the beginning of the 1990s, but then increased slightly. In most Member States, economic growth has been associated with increased DMI. However, Finland, France, Italy and the UK have reduced their dependence on Direct Material Input.

The aim of this last chapter is to focus on new developments in environmental indicators. In past years, a number of aggregated physical measures have been proposed to show overall pressures on the environment. Examples include the ‘human appropriation of net primary production’ (indicating the share of biomass used by human activities in energy units) and the ‘ecological footprint’ (indicating the area of productive land utilised by a certain population and its activities). The new indicator, Total Material Requirement (TMR), expresses the total mass of primary materials extracted from nature to support human activities. Thus, TMR is a highly aggregated indicator for the material basis of an economy. This chapter presents the first calculation of the TMR for the EU. The reader is invited to study the outcomes and report back on the applications of this indicator.

The TMR indicator includes both materials used for further processing (Direct Material Input or DMI, see below) and hidden flows, i.e. extractions that are not used further, but have an environmental impact (e.g. overburden and extraction waste). TMR includes extraction both from domestic territory and ofthe resource requirements associated with imports. Changes in the balance between the foreign and the domestic amount of TMR indicate possible shifts in environmental impact between countries.

Similarly to energy requirements (see Figure 3.2) and total water abstraction (see Figure 12.2), TMR indicates a generic pressure on the environment. The volume of resource requirements determines the scale of local disturbances by extraction (e.g. devastation of mining sites, disruption of natural habitats, groundwater contamination and landscape changes at the extraction site), the throughput of the economy (DMI) and subsequent amounts of emissions and wastes. TMR, however, does not indicate the severity of these specific environmental pressures at the individual sites.

TMR consists of all resource extraction besides water and air. Statistics on industrial production, agriculture, forestry and fisheries provide data on domestic material requirements, while foreign trade statistics give data on imports (grouped into raw materials, intermediate products and final products). Raw materials are traced back to the delivering countries using these statistics. This data is supplemented by specific information on hidden flows, e.g. overburden and extraction waste in mining and quarrying, excavation during construction and dredging, and erosion of agricultural fields. Intermediate products are classified according to their main constituent (e.g. steel or aluminium) and combined with data on cumulative resource requirements. Final products are accounted for only by their weight. The resulting values therefore represent minimum estimates for the Total Material Requirement.

TMR comprises all the primary resources needed for the production side of an economy, including trade and service activities. All inputs contributing to value added are considered, i.e. pure transit is not accounted for. Countries with a high dependence on either domestic resource extraction or imports exhibit high TMR values, irrespective of whether the resulting produce is exported or consumed within the own country.

So far, TMR has been calculated only for a few European countries (Bringezu and Schütz, 1995; Bringezu, 1997; Adriaanse et al., 1997 and 1998; Juutinen and Mäenpää, 1999; Mündl et al.; 1999). Thefirst calculation of TMR for the EU is presented and analysed below. Although the values are preliminary, the order of magnitude appears sufficiently valid for international comparisons.

16.1. Material resource requirements

In 1995, the EU’s TMR amounted to 18.1 billion tonnes or 49 tonnes per capita (Figure 16.1). Due to the masses of materials involved and their hidden flows, the EU’s TMR is dominated by energy, metals and mineral resources. It is significantly lower than that for the US in 1994 (84 tonnes/capita), but higher than that for Japan (45 tonnes/capita) in 1994. Both the US and Japan have a higher GDP per capita than the EU. By comparison, GDP per capita for Poland was a fifth of that for the EU in 1995, but the TMR per capita was almost 60 % of that for the EU.

A time series of TMR for the EU will be produced shortly. Until then two non-overlapping time series are presented – one for the domestic and one for the foreign components in TMR (Figures 16.3 and 16.4). In 1995, the domestic part was 63 % of total EU material requirements, having fallen over the previous 10 years. The remaining 37 % of TMR was linked to imports; this value increased slightly between 1995 and 1997.

Figure 16.1: TMR and GDP of the EU compared with selected Member States and other countries

Source: Wuppertal Institute, WRI, NIES, VROM, Thule Institute, INE, Warsaw University
Note: GDP given at constant prices and exchange rates for 1990.

The main reason for the much lower total resource requirements in the EU compared with the US is the difference in material flows related to fossil fuels. Due to less use of energy in the EU and a reduced use of coal, Europe’s fossil-fuel resource requirements are only 44 % of the US’s (Figure 16.2).

Figure 16.2 also reveals differences in national patterns of material requirements:

  • Because Germany still depends to a large extent on coal extraction, material flows related to fossil fuels are the same order of magnitude as in the US.
  • Germany and Finland have the highest rate of minerals extraction due to sand and gravel production. The German value for minerals is twice the EU’s due to significant housing and infrastructure construction.
  • In Finland, where metal manufacturing is still a significant part of industrial production, resource requirements for metals are relatively high. The relatively high biomass values for Finland are due to forestry (timber is a significant Finnish export).
  • The high material flows associated with erosion in the Netherlands reflect its significant agricultural imports from non-European countries.

Figure 16.2: Composition of TMR in the EU, selected Member States and other countries

Source: Wuppertal Institute, WRI, NIES, VROM, Thule Institute, INE and Warsaw University
Note: Hidden flows are included in fossil fuels, metals and minerals or are represented by excavation and erosion.

16.2. Domestic resource extraction

The domestic portion of TMR for the EU fell by 12 % between 1985 and 1995 to 63 %, mainly due to a decrease in the extraction of fossil-fuel resources (Figure 16.3).

Figure 16.3: Domestic resource extraction in the EU between 1985 and 1995

Source: Wuppertal Institute
Note: Before 1990, the values represent the combined extraction of the former West Germany and East Germany.

 Domestic resource extraction in the EU fell by 12 % between 1985 and 1995, mainly due to a decline in lignite production in eastern Germany.

The reduction was mainly due to a decline in lignite production following the closure of significant numbers of obsolete industrial facilities in eastern Germany since reunification. However, lignite production still represented 80 % of fossil-fuel-related domestic resource extraction in 1995 and was associated with 23 % of the domestic TMR of the EU. The main producers were Germany (74 % of EU lignite production), Greece (21 %), and Spain (4 %).

Extraction of hard-coal resources declined less rapidly but still significantly compared with lignite – by 35 % since 1985 to 135 million tonnes in 1995.In 1995, the main producers of solid hard coal were Germany, the UK and Spain with 44 %, 38 % and 13 % respectively. However, in terms of total extraction (including hidden flows), these countries accounted for 35 %, 24 % and 39 % respectively. Hard-coal production in Spain thus has much higher hidden flows than Germany and the UK.

The decline in energy-resource extraction was greatest for those energy carriers with the highest hidden material flows. For lignite, an average of nine tonnes of overburden has to be removed to extract one tonne of the energy carrier. This ratio, which highlights the poor resource efficiency of lignite production, has grown gradually. For hard coal, the ratio is much lower (around 1:1), but is also increasing slowly. The ratios for the other energy carriers are significantly lower. As lignite and coal production decline, these highly resource-intensive energy resources are being replaced by the less resource-intensive oil and gas.

Simultaneously with this decline in domestic material requirements for fossil fuels, the volume of mineral requirements has grown and, in recent years, has exceeded domestic energy resource extraction (Figure 16.3). Quarrying activities should therefore be taken as seriously as mining activities. The associated pressures on the environment associated with the overall extraction volume, e.g. hydrological changes, habitat disturbances, growth of built-up area and construction waste, have probably increased as well.

For mineral resources, the proportion of hidden flows is relatively low at 17.6 % of the total for mineral-resource extraction.

16.3 EU resource requirements in foreign countries

Imported metals, minerals and agricultural products are associated with higher hidden flows per commodity than domestic produce, indicating a relatively higher environmental impact in the exporting countries. In 1995, the resource extraction associated with EU imports was at least 37 % of TMR. Between 1995 and 1997, it increased by 8 % mainly due to the import of precious-metal ores (Figure 16.4). Renewable resources account for only 2.4 % of foreign TMR, compared with 18.3 % of domestic TMR. Foreign TMR thus contributes particularly to the depletion of non-renewable resources.

Figure 16.4: TMR of the EU associated with imports

Source: Wuppertal Institute
Note: Foreign resource extraction as a basis for domestic activities.

 EU material requirements for foreign resources increased by 8 % between 1995 and 1997. Demand for luxury and precious commodities has a major influence on foreign TMR.

Imports of precious-metal ores into the EU increased by 51 % between 1995 and 1997 to 5 600 tonnes/year. In 1997, resource flows of precious metals (an estimated 1.5 billion tonnes) contributed around 70 % to metal-resource extraction for imports to the EU while iron and copper ore, the second- and third-ranked metal imports, contributed only 18 % and 4 % respectively. Imports of finished products such as jewellery, plated ware, gold and silver goods also contribute to resource requirements. These have not yet been included in foreign TMR data for the EU, but are estimated to contribute an additional 1 tonne/capita.

Diamond imports dominate mineral requirements. Imports of only 44 000 kg in 1997 were linked to an estimated extraction of 232 million tonnes of material. This is more than half the mineral-resource requirements of the EU’s foreign TMR. The hidden flows associated with the import of 2 450 tonnes of other precious stones in 1997 have not yet been quantified due to lack of data.

The inevitable conclusion from the data above is that much of the resource flows for EU imports are associated with luxury commodities.

There is a marked difference in the hidden flow to commodity ratios for domestic resource extraction and foreign resource extraction (Table 16.1).

Table 16.1 Ratios of hidden flows to commodities for the EU in 1995
  Domestic Foreign Total
Fossil fuels 3.48 1.63 2.55
Metals 1.07 15.49 10.34
Minerals 0.21 4.41 0.31
Agricultural biomass 0.63 5.90 0.89
Total 0.94 4.18 1.51
Source: Wuppertal Institute      

Fossil-fuel imports (other than electricity) have a significantly lower hidden-flow ratio than domestic extraction of energy resources. Imports are mainly oil and natural gas, and have lower hidden flows than lignite and hard coal. Reducing energy use by industry, transport and households will mean less burden on the environment from resource extraction either domestically or in foreign countries.

Hidden flows from the import of metal resources are 14 times higher than those from domestic extraction. Ore mining is only a minor activity within the EU, which imports most of its base metals (iron, aluminium, copper, etc.) and almost all its precious metals.

Imports of agricultural products by EU Member States are associated with more erosion than domestic agriculture. This is mainly due to the import of products such as coffee and cocoa. In a number of Member States, consumers have shown some interest in supporting more sustainable agricultural practices by buying specific and labelled products.

16.4. Resource productivity of ‘Direct Material Inputs’

Calculation of TMR requires connecting production and import statistics with coefficients for the hidden flows. Production of a time series of Direct Material Inputs (DMIs), i.e. inputs of primary materials without the hidden flows, would be much easier and would give a straightforward and up-to-date indicator for trends in resource productivity. When comparing countries for which TMR and DMI have been calculated, there is an indication that a high DMI goes with a high TMR and vice versa. If such a correlation could be proved, the more easily calculated DMI could be used for regular monitoring of materials productivity. A full domestic TMR would then only need to be calculated if the burden of resource extraction to the national environment was required. In addition, foreign TMR can be used to indicate the sharing of burdens and the shifting of problems between countries and regions.

The DMI of the EU showed a moderate reduction in absolute terms of 6 % between 1988 and 1995 (Figure 16.5). On a per-capita basis, it declined by 8 % from 21.2 tonnes/capita to 19.5 tonnes/capita. Most of the change occurred at the beginning of the 1990s and was mainly due to a decline in imports of 1 tonne/capita. Since 1993, however, the DMI of most EU Member States has been increasing slightly. Thus in terms of DMI, there is no sign of an absolute decrease in material use.

When comparing DMI and GDP for EU Member States between 1988 and 1995, three groups of Member States can be distinguished:

  1. A higher economic performance is associated with higher DMI in Austria, the Benelux countries, Denmark, Greece, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Portugal.
  2. Germany and Ireland achieved significantly higher GDP with a constant DMI. In these two Member States, a relative decoupling of direct material requirements and economic growth has occurred.
  3. Finland, France, Italy and the UK managed to combine economic growth with reduced DMI. Reduced extraction of building minerals allowed these four Member States to demonstrate that absolute dematerialisation is possible.

The EU as a whole performed well with a reduction of DMI/capita by 8 % while GDP/capita increased by 19 %. Altogether direct materials productivity grew by 29 % in the EU between 1988 and 1995. The difference in EU results compared with those of individual countries is due to the exchange of goods between the countries: Member States’ DMIs include intra-EU trade whereas the EU’s DMI does not. Due to the constant level of DMI since 1992, the EU as a whole can be grouped with Germany and Ireland (group 2) . leaving it the challenge of following the countries in group 1 to use less material resources while achieving a higher economic performance.

Figure 16.5: Direct Material Input versus GDP per capita in EU Member States, 1988-1995

Source: Wuppertal Institute
Notes: GDP in ECU at constant prices of 1985. DMI of Member States includes intra-EU trade, but the DMI of the EU does not.

Direct resource productivity of the EU increased by 29 % between 1998 and 1995.

16.5. References and further reading

Adriaanse, A., et al. (1997). Resource flows: the material basis of industrial economies. Eds: World Resources Institute Wuppertal Institute; Netherlands Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning, and Environment; National Institute for Environmental Studies, Japan. WRI Report, Washington.

Adriaanse, A., et al. (1998). Stoffströme: Die materielle Basis von Industriegesellschaften (German revised version of Adriaanse et al. 1997). Eds.: Wuppertal Institute; World Resources Institute; Netherlands Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning, and Environment; National Institute for Environmental Studies, Japan. Wuppertal Texte, Birkhäuser Verlag, Basel.

Bringezu, S. (1997). ‘Accounting for the physical basis of national economies: material flow indicators’ in SCOPE 58 — Sustainability Indicators: 170-180 B. Eds. Moldan et al.

Bringezu, S. and Schütz, H. (1995). ‘Wie mißt man die ökologische Zukunftsfähigkeit einer Volkswirtschaft? — Ein Beitrag der Stoffstrombilanzierung am Beispiel der Bundesrepublik Deutschland’ in Neue Ansätze der Umweltstatistik: 26-54. Ed. S. Bringezu.

Juutinen, A. and Mäenpää, I. (1999). Time Series for the Total Material Requirement of Finnish Economy — Summary. Eco-efficient Finland project, interim report 15 August 1999. University of Oulu, Thule Institute.

Mündl, A. et al. (1999). Sustainable development by dematerialization in production and consumption — strategy for the new environmental policy in Poland. Report 3, 1999. Institute for Sustainable Development, Warsaw.


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