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A Handbook of Industrial Ecology

Edited by Robert U. Ayres and Leslie W. Ayres

Industrial ecology is coming of age and this superb book brings together leading scholars to present a state-of-the-art overviews of the subject. Each part of the book comprehensively covers the following issues in a systematic style: the goals and achievements of industrial ecology and the history of the field; methodology, covering the main approaches to analysis and assessment; economics and industrial ecology; industrial ecology at the national/regional level; industrial ecology at the sectoral/materials level; and applications and policy implications.
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Chapter 8: Material flow analysis

Stefan Bringezu and Yuichi Moriguchi


8. Material flow analysis Stefan Bringezu and Yuichi Moriguchi Understanding the structure and functioning of the industrial or societal metabolism is at the core of industrial ecology (Ayres 1989a; see also Chapters 1, 2 and 3). Material flow analysis (MFA) refers to the analysis of the throughput of process chains comprising extraction or harvest, chemical transformation, manufacturing, consumption, recycling and disposal of materials. It is based on accounts in physical units (usually in terms of tons) quantifying the inputs and outputs of those processes. The subjects of the accounting are chemically defined substances (for example, carbon or carbon dioxide) on the one hand and natural or technical compounds or ‘bulk’ materials (for example, coal, wood) on the other hand. MFA has often been used as a synonym for material flow accounting; in a strict sense the accounting represents only one of several steps of the analysis, and has a clear linkage to economic accounting. MFA has become a fast-growing field of research with increasing policy relevance. All studies are based on the common paradigm of industrial metabolism and use the methodological principle of mass balancing. However, there are various methodological approaches which are based on different goals, concepts and target questions, although each study may claim to contribute to knowledge of the industrial metabolism. In 1996, the network ConAccount was established to provide a platform for information exchange on MFA ( A first inventory on MFA projects and activities was provided (Bringezu et al. 1998a). Several meetings took...

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