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E-mail: environment@cso.ie Reamonn McKeever (+353) 1 4984212 Berna Lawlor (+353) 1 4984210
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information@cso.ie (+353) 21 453 5000 Visit StatCentral.ie, the portal to Ireland's official statistics On-line ISSN 2009-888X
CSO statistical release, 15 December 2016, 11am

Material Flow Accounts


Domestic Material Consumption
million tonnes
Metallic Minerals7.
Non-Metallic Minerals41.738.333.034.734.0
Fossil Fuels18.616.813.319.616.6
Other Products0.
Domestic Material Consumption105.298.689.999.996.5

3.4% decrease in Domestic Material Consumption in 2014

Material Flow Accounts 2014 Figure 1

Domestic Material Consumption (DMC) peaked in 2007 at 180 million tonnes. It was estimated at 96.5 million tonnes in 2014 which is 3.4% lower than in 2013 (see Table 1). The primary cause of this decline is a reduction in fossil fuels consumption of 3 million tonnes between 2013 and 2014. DMC is calculated by adding Imports to Domestic Extraction and deducting Exports.

X-axis labelDomestic Material ConsumptionDomestic ExtractionImportsExports

Domestic Extraction is the largest component of Domestic Material Consumption. In 2014 the two main components of Domestic Extraction were Biomass at 35.2 million tonnes (46%) and Non-Metallic Minerals at 32.8 million tonnes (43%). Metallic Minerals (Lead and Zinc gross ores) and Fossil Fuels (mainly Peat) comprised the remainder of Domestic Extraction.

Trade imports are quite varied but Fossil Fuels was the largest category in 2014 whereas in exports Biomass was the largest category in 2014.

X-axis labelLimestone and Gypsum (including Crushed Rock)Sand and GravelGrazed BiomasFodder Crops

Limestone and Gypsum (including Crushed Rock) decreased from 72.8 million tonnes in 2007 to 20 million tonnes in 2014. Over the same period Sand and Gravel decreased from 38.3 million tonnes to 12.3 million tonnes. Grazed Biomass has been around 20 million tonnes throughout this period  (see Figure 3 and Table 2).

X-axis labelDomestic Material ConsumptionResource Productivity

DMC can be compared with Gross Domestic Product at constant prices to give a general indicator of resource productivity in the economy. This indicator doubled from 1.04 euro per kilogram of DMC in 2000 to a high of 2.0 euro per kilogram of DMC in 2014. The main underlying factors were the large decreases since 2007 in the extraction of aggregates such as Sand and Gravel and Crushed Rock.

Table 1: Net Material Accumulation
million tonnes
Domestic Extraction138.8150.6152.4135.3101.384.079.471.579.076.8
     Metallic Minerals4.
     Non-Metallic Minerals94.5107.9111.992.059.139.335.931.433.032.8
     Fossil Fuels4.
 + Trade Imports37.538.842.338.933.435.834.934.836.636.4
     Metallic Minerals6.
     Non-Metallic Minerals5.
     Fossil Fuels15.514.417.017.015.916.015.715.015.314.7
     Other Products1.
  - Trade Exports14.214.714.714.913.214.715.716.415.716.7
     Metallic Minerals3.
     Non-Metallic Minerals1.
     Fossil Fuels2.
     Other Products1.
 = Domestic Material Consumption162.2174.7180.0159.3121.5105.298.689.999.996.5
    Metallic Minerals7.
    Non-Metallic Minerals98.7113.3117.395.961.341.738.333.034.734.0
    Fossil Fuels17.516.017.918.016.718.616.813.319.616.6
    Other Products0.
 - Domestic Processed Output61.460.760.660.254.855.051.251.351.150.9
     Emissions to Air50.149.549.649.444.343.940.240.539.739.4
     Emissions to Land0.
     Emissions to Water0.
     Dissipative Use of Products11.010.810.710.710.410.810.610.511.311.4
 + Balancing Input Gases74.574.575.
 - Balancing Output Gases64.763.662.563.261.358.857.759.760.159.8
 = Net Material Accumulation110.5125.0132.0111.174.559.854.043.852.649.0
Table 2: Domestic Extraction
million tonnes
Domestic Extraction138.8150.6152.4135.3101.384.079.471.579.076.8
           Sugar Crops1.
           Other Crops
     Used Crop Residues3.
           Other Crop Residues
      Fodder Crops7.
      Grazed Biomass18.518.318.720.320.420.620.420.319.919.7
      Wild Fish Catch, Aquatic Plants and Animals0.
 Metallic Minerals4.
          Lead Gross Ore0.
          Zinc Gross Ore4.
 Non-Metallic Minerals94.5107.9111.992.059.139.335.931.433.032.8
          Marble, Granite, Sandstone0.
          Limestone and Gypsum (including Crushed Rock)61.971.972.860.237.925.823.718.619.220.0
          Clays and Kaolin0.
          Sand and Gravel32.035.338.331.520.612.811.612.113.212.3
          Other Non-Metallic Minerals0.
 Fossil Fuels4.
          Natural Gas0.

Background Notes

Material Flow Accounts

The general purpose of economy-wide material flow accounts (MFA) is to describe the interaction of the domestic economy with the natural environment and the rest of the world economy in terms of flows of materials. Only flows crossing the system boundary, as inputs between the environment and the economy or as outputs between the economy and the environment, are counted. Material flows within the economy are not taken into account.

Material inputs to the economy cover extractions of materials (excluding water) from the natural environment and imports of goods. Material outputs are disposals of materials to the natural environment and exports of goods and waste.

1. Domestic Extraction

Material inputs from the natural environment to the economy are called domestic extraction. There are four types of domestic extraction:

  • Biomass;
  • Metallic minerals;
  • Non-metallic minerals; and
  • Fossil fuels.

Materials that are extracted from the environment without the intention of using them are not included. Examples of unused extraction are soil and rock excavated during construction, overburden from mining, the unused parts of felling in forestry, unused catch in fishing, unused parts of the straw harvest in agriculture, and natural gas flared or vented.

1.1 Biomass

Biomass in general comprises organic non-fossil material of biological origin. The flow from the environment to the economy is recognised at the point of harvest. The classification of material flows for domestic extraction of biomass has four main sections:

  • Crops (excluding fodder crops);
  • Straw, other used crop residues, fodder crops, and grazed biomass;
  • Wood from cultivated and non-cultivated forests; and
  • Wild fish catch, aquatic plants/animals, hunting and gathering.

A characteristic feature of all types of biomass is its considerable moisture content, which may account for more than 95% in the case of fresh living plant biomass. However, the moisture content is very variable across plant parts and species and vegetation periods. Fodder crops, grazed biomass and wood have to be converted to a standardised moisture content. Other biomass is accounted for at its weight at the time of harvest.

Crops (excluding fodder crops): include primary harvest of all crops from arable land and permanent cultures. This includes major staple foods such as cereals, roots and tubers, pulses, vegetables as well as commercial feed crops, industrial crops and all fruits and nuts from permanent cultures. It also includes flowers, Christmas trees, seeds, and short rotation wood such as miscanthus and willow. Own account production of agricultural goods is regarded as domestic extraction.

Straw, other used crop residues, fodder crops, and grazed biomass: In most cases, primary crop harvest is only a fraction of total plant biomass of the respective cultivar. The residual biomass, such as straw, may be put to further economic use such as for bedding material in livestock husbandry, as animal feed, for energy production, and as industrial raw material. Crop residues are regarded as domestic extraction irrespective of whether they are sold or used for intra-unit consumption. Residues which are ploughed into the soil or burned in the field are not accounted for as used extraction. A significant amount of fodder is consumed by animals feeding directly from pastures (grazed biomass). Grazed biomass is regarded as domestic extraction. Grass type fodder crops have been reported in dry weight (15 % moisture).

Straw Crop Residue figures are generated by multiplying cereal crop tonnage (including Maize) figures by Eurostat Harvest and Recovery Rates.

Other Crop Residues are obtained by multiplying the tonnage figures of  Oil Seed Rape, Sugar Beet, Fodder Beet and Potato residues by their respective Harvest and Recovery Rates.

Fodder Crop figures are generated by taking Grass Silage, Hay, Arable Silage, Maize Silage and Fodder Rape and Kale figures and multiplying the area under cultivation by national yield factors to derive wet weight statistics for these categories. Fodder Crops are then converted into dry weights using conversion factors.

Two main estimation methods are possible for the calculation of Grazed Biomass: a supply-side approach or a demand-side approach. The supply-side approach multiplies the areas under grass silage, hay, pasture and rough grazing by national yield factors.

The demand-side approach takes the annual fodder requirement of the existing livestock and subtracts it from the Overall Roughage Requirement of livestock. The total Roughage Requirements for ruminant animals is calculated using average roughage intakes per animal multiplied by the number of animals in each category.

The supply side approach to the calculation of Grazed Biomass has been the one adopted in the production of statistics for this release.

Wood from cultivated and non-cultivated forests: Only harvested timber is regarded as domestic extraction and not the total growth of trees. Increments to the stock of standing timber are regarded as positive from an environmental viewpoint and are not considered part of domestic extraction until it is harvested.

Wood output is usually reported in solid cubic metres: this has to be converted into tonnes. The density factors which are reported by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change refer to oven dry mass of wood. Therefore the original density factors of the IPCC publication were transformed by factors which converted solid cubic metres into tonnes at 15 % moisture content.

Bark accounts for approximately 10% of stem wood weight. A significant fraction of the bark is of economic use (e.g. energy production). The part of the bark which is used has to be regarded as domestic extraction. All biomass which remains in the forest, and is not used (branches, root-stock etc.), is not counted as domestic extraction. It should be assumed that all harvested wood over bark is used economically.

Wild Fish catch, aquatic animals/plants, hunting and gathering: This category comprises the extraction of all wild (non-cultivated) aquatic biomass including seaweed as well as fish caught in sea and inland waters. Cultivated aquatic resources (aquaculture) are not regarded as domestic extraction.

1.2 Metallic Minerals

In Material Flow Accounts extraction of metal ores is measured as gross ore. Accounting for domestic extraction of metals and also of non-metallic minerals always refers to the run-of-mine production (the total amount of extracted crude mineral that is submitted to the first processing step). Material extracted but not used as an input for subsequent processing is not counted as domestic extraction.

If two or more metals are obtained from the same crude ore then the total amount of ore has to be allocated to the different metals. This occurs in Ireland where lead and zinc are mined together. The total amount of gross ore is calculated by dividing the metal content of the main metal by the ore grade of that metal. The allocation of gross ore to lead and zinc was done using metal prices. A small amount of silver is also mined.

The figures for lead, zinc, and silver extraction were obtained from the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment.

1.3 Non-Metallic Minerals

Non-metallic minerals cover the following categories:

  • Marble, granite, sandstone, porphyry, basalt, other ornamental or building stone;
  • Chalk and dolomite;
  • Slate;
  • Chemical and fertiliser minerals;
  • Salt;
  • Limestone and gypsum (including crushed rock);
  • Clays and kaolin;
  • Sand and gravel; and
  • Other.

The CSO PRODCOM survey was the main data source used to compile these figures. Adjustments were made in some years for non-response and below threshold returns. The Limestone and Gypsum category includes figures for crushed rock. These crushed rock statistics were supplemented using the CSO Road Freight Survey for data not reported in PRODCOM. The basis for this under-reporting assumption is that PRODCOM data relate to sales by enterprises with 3 or more employees and hence may exclude aggregates extracted for own use as well as below threshold activity.

1.4 Fossil Fuels

The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland’s energy balance is the main data source for the domestic extraction of fossil fuels. Peat and natural gas are the two main material products that are extracted. The energy balances exclude peat used for non-energy purposes such as gardening. Data on natural gas were converted from cubic metres into tonnes using conversion factors supplied by the SEAI.

2. Goods exports and imports

Imports and exports of merchandise goods are grouped into material groups which are similar to the classification of material flows for domestic extraction. The demarcation of trade flows follows the methodology used in external trade statistics (goods are measured as they physically cross the national frontier), rather than follow the residence principle as applied in National Accounts.

Eurostat has provided a key for classifying goods according to their level of manufacturing (see below). This is useful as imports of semi-manufactured and finished goods are recorded using their imported weight rather than by their raw material equivalent weight, and the Eurostat classification gives an insight into the relative composition of Ireland’s imports.

  • Raw materials are products produced by primary industries such as agriculture, forestry, fishing, and mining;
  • Semi-manufactured products are further processed raw products that do not yet constitute finished products;
  • Finished products are not subject to further processing.

Some traded products are measured in units other than net mass e.g. number of aircraft. In such cases the net mass has been estimated using the monetary value. In other cases, the net mass was estimated using the supplementary unit value.

3. Domestic Processed Output

Domestic Processed Output indicates the total weight of materials which are released back to the environment after being used in the domestic economy. Exported materials are not included in DPO because they are yet to be used in other countries. There are five main categories:

  • Emissions to air;
  • Waste landfilled (uncontrolled);
  • Emissions to water;
  • Dissipative use of products; and
  • Dissipative losses

 3.1 Emissions to air

Emissions to air are gaseous or particulate materials released to the atmosphere from production or consumption processes in the economy. Air emissions include emissions from controlled landfills because such landfills are considered to be part of the economy. N2O emissions from product use and NMVOC emissions by solvents are accounted for as dissipative use of products. Emissions to air from fertiliser application, such as N2O and NH3 are not accounted for in Domestic Processed Output. The related primary output is fertiliser spread on agricultural soil. The inclusion of these emissions thus would represent double counting. The basic data for emissions to air come from the National Inventory Reports compiled by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Oxygen is drawn from the atmosphere during fossil fuel combustion and other industrial processes. In Material Flow Accounts, this atmospheric oxygen is not included in the totals on the input side (Domestic Extraction etc.) but it is included in the totals on the output side (Domestic Processed Output). The reason is that oxygen is a constituent part of the pollutants and greenhouse gases, and that these emissions are usually reported and analysed with their oxygen content. To arrive at a full mass balance, the missing oxygen on the input side is reported as input balancing items.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) from biomass combustion: This sub-category includes:

  • Biofuels like biodiesel and bioethanol;
  • Biogas (which may be used both as a biofuel and as a fuel for producing electricity and heat);
  • Biomass for electricity and heat, mainly wood and agricultural harvest residuals; and
  • Biomass from fire wood, wastes from agriculture and forestry, etc.

It does not include CO2 emissions form land use and land use changes which are considered as flows within the environment. CO2 emissions from human or animal respiration are classified as output balancing items.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) excluding biomass combustion: This category includes CO2 emissions from the decomposition of waste in controlled landfills, animal digestion, decomposition of animal wastes, production and distribution of natural gas and oil, coal production, and incomplete fossil-fuel combustion.

Methane emissions from uncontrolled landfills are not included as Emissions to air as such landfills are classified as part of the environment rather than as part of the economy - wastes deposited in controlled landfills are accounted for as an addition to stock.

Ammonia emissions from agriculture are not included in Emissions to air.

3.2 Waste landfilled (uncontrolled)

Wastes are commonly reported in wet weight which have been converted to dry matter value. The figures for this category were obtained from the EPA and they comprise depositing of municipal waste only.

3.3 Emissions to water

Emissions to water are materials which cross the boundary from the economy back into the Environment. Only data on flows of pollutants into the water bodies were reported and not data on pollutant concentration in the water bodies. The figures for this category were obtained from the EPA.

3.4 Dissipative Use of Products

Examples of dissipative use are inorganic and organic fertilisers such as manure, compost, or sewage sludge. Manure spread on agricultural land is reported in dry weight.

The fertiliser figures mainly concerns four major plant nutrients - nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and lime - in plant-available forms. These were reported in total weights.

Sewage sludge refers to any solid, semi-solid, or liquid residue removed during the treatment of municipal waste water or domestic sewage. Sewage sludge is reported in dry weight.

Compost is used as a fertiliser. It is reported in dry weight.

Pesticides are used for controlling pests. They have been reported as active ingredients rather than total mass.

3.5 Dissipative Losses

Dissipative losses are unintentional outputs of materials to the environment resulting from abrasion, corrosion and erosion at mobile and stationary sources, and from leakages or from accidents during the transport of goods. No data for dissipative losses have been calculated for this release.

4. Balancing Items

These data are organised according to whether they comprise those gases required on the input side to balance a given output which is already accounted for, or gases which must be considered on the output side to balance a given input.

Input Gases: Balancing items on the input side consist of oxygen used in combustion processes, oxygen used in respiration by humans and livestock and nitrogen used in the Haber-Bosch process to produce ammonia. The calculation of these input gases relies on the use of coefficients recommended by the Eurostat Material Flow Accounts Compilation Guidelines.

Output Gases: Balancing items on the output side consist of water vapour released by the combustion of fuels and water vapour and carbon dioxide produced by the respiration of humans and livestock. The calculation of these output gases relies on the use of conversion coefficients recommended by the Eurostat Material Flow Accounts Compilation Guidelines.

5. Derived Indicators

Direct Material Input measures the input of materials directly used by the economy, which are all materials that form part of products or are used in production and consumption activities. DMI equals used extraction (including that which is used or contained in exports) plus imports.

Physical Trade Balance measures the difference between the total mass of imports and the total mass of exports (imports minus exports) in tonnes.

Domestic Material Consumption measures the total amount of material directly consumed by the economy. It is the sum of domestic extraction and imports less exports.

Net Material Accumulation is the difference between inputs from the environment and the rest of the world into the economy and the outputs from the economy into the environment and the rest of the world.

Resource Productivity measures the amount of GDP at constant prices compared with Domestic Material Consumption. It is a measure of how efficiently resources are used in the economy.

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