CGER Reports

Material Flow Data Book
-World Resource Flows around Japan-

-Japanese Only-


Industrialized economies extract huge amount of natural resources from the environment and convert them to produce various commodities, thus enable us to enjoy convenient and ample life. On the other hand, pollutants associated with production and consumption of commodities as well as post-consuming commodities go back to the environment as residues of the economies. The size of such material cycle between human activities and the natural environment is tremendous, and far beyond the reproduction speed of natural rescues and environmental carrying capacity. Many of present environmental issues are associated with our present socio-economic structure characterized by "mass-production, mass-consumption and mass-disposal".

Recognition that the environment is finite as the source of resources supply and as the recipient of pollutants is the most essential standpoint to discuss sustainable development. The chapter 4 of the Agenda 21 points out that current production-consumption pattern of industrial economies is far from sustainability. The Basic Environmental Plan of Japan states that it is necessary to transform our production and consumption pattern more sustainable. Such statements are based on the recognition that pursuing too much "material wealth" has led to the environmental crisis.

In order to analyze relationships between environmental problems and current socio-economic activities characterized by massive use of materials, it is indispensable to comprehensively quantify flows of materials between the economy and the nature and those among various economic sectors. The Material Flow Accounting / Analysis (MFA) is a powerful tool for such comprehensive analysis. The Center for Global Environmental Research (CGER) in the National Institute for Environmental Studies (NIES) has been carrying out a study on environmental and natural resources accounting by the Global Environmental Research Fund since 1991. One of the priority issues of the study is accounting of imported natural resources, on which Japanese economy depends, and their environmental implications are of interest. Data on international trade of natural resources collected for that study is hereby recompiled in this publication.

The NIES also carried out international joint study on the MFA with experts in the United States, Germany and the Netherlands. "Resource Flows", the first report of the joint study was published in 1997. The report pointed out the importance of "hidden flows" (originally called as Ecological Rucksacks by German experts), which denote implicit material flows behind explicit (real) material input to the economy. By international comparison, it was shown that hidden flows associated imported resources to Japan play major role in total material requirement of Japan.

Based on such background, this data book is compiled to provide fundamental information to understand the recent state of international trades of natural resources, and to recognize the Japanese position in the world trade market. Data records in physical units are extracted from trade statistics of the United Nations then aggregated and converted when necessary. In order to provide concise and easy-to-understand information, inter-regional trade flows are presented as color maps by resources categories. In addition, numerical data tables in trade matrices format are attached.

This data book is intended to show a first step to study environmental implications of international trades. The book will be useful as a basic reference for "from-cradle-to-grave (life cycle)" viewpoint. This may also contribute to more specific scientific use, such as environmental-economic modeling.