Material flow analysis: A tool to support environmental policy decision making. Case-studies on the city of Vienna and the Swiss lowlands

Material flow analysis: A tool to support environmental policy decision making. Case-studies on the city of Vienna and the Swiss lowlands
Carolyn Hendriks
Richard Obernosterer
Daniel B. Müller
Susanne Kytzia
Peter Baccini
Paul H. Brunner
Local Environment, Volume 5, Pages 311--328
This paper discusses the use of Material Flow Analysis (MFA) as a
tool to support policy decision making in the eld of resource and environmental
management. In terms of policy, MFA can be used for early recognition, priority
setting, to analyse and improve the effectiveness of measures and to design
ef cient material management strategies in view of sustainability . MFA has a
high potential to be implemented as a guiding tool at the regional level, for
example as part of a regional environmental management and audit system or
as a part of the Local Agenda 21 process. Material management based on MFA
is complementary to traditiona l environmental and resource management strate-
gies, which have tended to focus heavily on speci c environmental compart-
ments, and measure the concentratio n of substances in various media. MFA, in
contrast, provides an overview of the total system by linking the anthropospher e
(that part of the biosphere in which humans' activities take place) with the
environment. This system approach shifts the focus away from the back-end
so-called ‘ lter strategies' to more pro-active front-end measures. MFA exam-
ines short- and long-term loadings rather than concentration s and highlight s
current and potential material accumulations , called material stocks. These
stocks represent either potential environmental problems (e.g. large stocks of
hazardous materials) or a potential source of future resources (e.g. urban
mining). In this way, MFA can assist precautionar y policy making by highlight-
ing future environmental or resource issue problems without relying on signals
of environmental stress. The objective of materials management is: rstly, to
analyse material ows and stocks; secondly, to evaluate these results; and
thirdly, to control material flows in view of certain goals such as sustainable
development. MFA is an excellent tool for the rst objective and is well
suited to generate a base for the other two objectives. MFA results can be
compared against environmental standards or can be interprete d using assess-
ment or indicator methodologies (such as environmental impact assessment or
ecological footprints) . Selected results from two studies, carried out for the city
of Vienna (substance management) and the Swiss lowlands (timber manage-
ment), illustrat e the use of MFA as a tool for early recognition (resource
depletion and environmental quality), for priority setting and for effective policy
More Information
Data Visualizations
Flows and stocks of goods in the anthroposphere of Vienna, Austria


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