Handbook of Research methods and Applications in Environmental Studies
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Handbook of Research methods and Applications in Environmental Studies

Edited by Matthias Ruth

This volume presents methods to advance the understanding of interdependencies between the well-being of human societies and the performance of their biophysical environment. It showcases applications to material and energy use; urbanization and technological transition; economic growth and social vulnerabilities; development and governance of social and industrial networks; the role of history, culture, and science itself in carrying out analysis and guiding policy; as well as the role of theory, data, and models in guiding decisions.
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Chapter 11: Dynamic product-centric MFA

Till Zimmermann and Stefan Gößling-Reisemann


Material flow analysis (MFA) is one of the main tools of industrial ecology. It aims at understanding the ‘industrial metabolism’ of the analyzed system in terms of the exchange of matter and energy between system components and with the environment. It also analyses the relevant system structure and functions and the role they play in this exchange (Bringezu and Moriguchi 2001; Brunner and Rechberger 2004). In MFA the concept of a metabolism, as developed in the science of ecosystems, is thus applied to industrial systems (Fischer-Kowalski 2001). While in the beginning, industrial metabolism research was focused exclusively on studying the energy and material exchange between societies and the environment from a macro perspective (Fischer-Kowalski 2001), today MFA is also widely applied to analyze historic and prospective material flows linked to the use of specific products and technologies, and to analyze flows of materials on the corporate level. In addition to the analytic purpose of MFA in terms of gaining knowledge about the industrial metabolism, Brunner and Rechberger (2004) describe a hidden agenda of MFA, that comprises resource conservation and environmental protection as its objectives.

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