What do we see?
Between 2010 and 2018, the moving average of Flemish RMC grew from 176 million to 191 million tonnes. As a result, the difference between Flemish material consumption (DMC) and the material footprint of Flemish consumption (RMC) also increased. A possible explanation for this is that the material-intensive steps of production are increasingly being outsourced abroad. This leads to a decrease in the material consumption, but not in the material footprint.
Therefore, we cannot decouple Flemish consumption from the material footprint: just as many direct and indirect raw materials are needed to meet the same needs. In the period between 2010 and 2018, the moving average (the 3-year average) of the RMI increased. This means the Flemish economy in fact had a greater demand for materials, both directly and from the upstream supply chains.
A large part of the import of materials is intended for the production of intermediate goods and finished products that are then re-exported. The Flemish economy is therefore heavily dependent on the direct import of materials.
What’s the aim?
In contrast to a linear economy, which uses resources and materials just once, a circular economy uses a more closed material cycle. In this scenario, therefore, fewer primary raw materials are required to meet the needs of Flanders, which leads to a decrease in the material footprint of consumption.
What does this indicator measure?
The material footprint of Flemish consumption paints a picture of the global impact of Flemish needs and allows us to quantify this impact.
This footprint can be calculated in 2 ways:
- Based on the material flow accounts of the whole economy. Here, imported and exported goods and services are converted into the amount of raw materials needed to produce these goods. By doing this, we can express import and export in raw material equivalents. The material flow accounts are created at country level, so we need to estimate the values for Flanders.
- Starting from the final consumption in Flanders. By using the Flemish input-output model, we find out how many primary raw materials the global production network needed upstream. To be able to do this, economic data for the Flemish and global economy is linked to the corresponding environmental data.
The order of magnitude is comparable for both methods. In both cases, the use of materials by the Flemish economy is between 26 and 30 tonnes per person.