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Environmental accounts - Economy-wide material flow accounts 1998–2020

Domestic material consumption fell in 2020

Statistical news from Statistics Sweden 2021-12-15 9.30

The rising trend in material consumption, underway since 1998, slowed 2020 due to falling imports. In 2020, 266 million tonnes of natural resources were extracted and material consumption amounted to 255 million tonnes. This corresponds to 24.6 tonnes per person and a decrease of one tonne per person compared with 2019.

Domestic extraction

Large quantities of natural resources are extracted every year in Sweden for domestic use or export. In 2020, 266 million tonnes of natural resources were extracted, which is the largest total since the beginning of the time series in 1998. However, the rate of increase slowed in 2020, as only domestic extraction of metal ores increased.

Non-metallic minerals is the largest material category, and accounted for 109 million tonnes in domestic extraction in 2020, of which sand and gravel accounted for 101 million tonnes. Extraction of metal ores amounted to 88 million tonnes in 2020. The largest extractions included iron ore (39 million tonnes), copper ore (31 million tonnes), and gold and silver ore (14 million tonnes). In 2020, extraction of biomass amounted to 68 million tonnes, and consisted mainly of timber (41 million tonnes).

Among all material categories, only metal extraction increased in 2020. The remaining categories remained unchanged compared with previous year. Metal ore extraction increased by 2 percent compared with 2019.

Certain events leave clear impressions in the statistics, such as the storm Gudrun, which led to a temporary large increase in timber extraction in 2005, and the international financial crisis, which led to a sharp decline in most categories in 2009 due to falling demand. The severe drought in the summer of 2018 also left a clear impression, as crops of cereals, pulses, oilseed crops and straw failed, which led to a drop in biomass extraction.

Domestic extraction, by category of material, 1998–2020


Source: Environmental Accounts, Statistics Sweden

Domestic material consumption

Domestic material consumption is defined as domestic extraction plus imports, minus exports. Total domestic material consumption decreased by 3 percent compared with 2019, but increased by 40 percent compared with 1998, and amounted to 255 million tonnes in 2020. The decline in material consumption can be explained by a drop in imports, which can be attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. 

Domestic material consumption of non-metallic minerals (that is, mostly sand and gravel), was 113 million tonnes in 2020, unchanged compared with 2019 but an increase of 47 percent compared with 1998. Consumption of metals has decreased by 5 percent in 2020 compared with 2019, but increased by 81 percent compared with 1998, and amounted to 60 million tonnes in 2020.

Consumption of biomass was 59 million tonnes in 2020, which is 8 percent less than in 2019 and 23 percent more than in 1998. Consumption of fossil fuels has increased by 3 percent compared with 2019, but has decreased by 22 percent compared with 1998, amounting to 18 million tonnes in 2020.

The “other products” and “waste” categories have increased considerably compared with 1998, albeit from low levels. In 2020, consumption of other products was 4 million tonnes, and waste amounted to 1 million tonnes.

Domestic material consumption, by category of material, 1998–2020


Source: Environmental Accounts, Statistics Sweden

Driving factors for material consumption

Some factors that affect the material consumption development include how much material is needed per product. This can be described as a material intensity (material consumption/GDP), how much is produced per person (GDP per capita), and the size of the population. The figure below shows that material intensity in Sweden has decreased over time, but has increased somewhat in recent years. The Swedish population and GDP per capita have increased over time. In total, material consumption has increased by almost 45 percent in the period 1998-2019.

Driving factors for material consumption in Sweden, 1998-2019. Index (1998 = 100)


Source: Environmental Accounts, Statistics Sweden Note: This is an application of the “IPAT” equation, which describes what drives material consumption. IPAT stands for: I (Impact) = P (Population) * A (Affluence) * T (Technology). The diagram description explains how the factors are linked to the different parts of the equation in parenthesis.

Definitions and explanations

The consumption of natural resources can be monitored in the system of economy-wide material flow accounts (EW-MFA). One of the main indicators of the EW-MFA is domestic material consumption (DMC), which measures the amount of material extracted in the country, plus imports minus exports.

Material flows are divided into the following main material categories: biomass, metals, non-metallic minerals (mainly sand and gravel), fossil fuels, other products and waste. These are further divided into 40 subcategories.

The EW-MFA is used to measure the resource productivity of a country’s economy, and to examine the relationship between resource consumption and the GDP in comparisons between different countries’ environmental performance. For instance, the DMC indicator is used in the EU Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe.

Since 2013, the EW-MFA has been included in the EU regulation on environmental accounts (see link below), which means EU Member States are obliged to report statistics on their material flows to the EU.

Information on domestic extraction, imports and exports, and material consumption by material category is available in the Statistical Database. A file containing basic data and more figures is also available for download on the product page (link under “More about the results” at the top of this page).

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Statistical Database

More information is available in the Statistical Database

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Statistical agency

Statistics Sweden


Susanna Roth

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Axel Ehrling

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