The EU funded PROSUM research project looks at ‘Prospecting Secondary raw materials in the Urban mine and Mining wastes’. The more than 15 institutions participating in the project have recently published their findings in a final report.

The report has some interesting Sankey diagrams on market input, stocks, waste generation and waste flows for product groups such as vehicles, batteries, precious materials and selected critical raw materials (CRMs) contained in batteries, electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) and vehicles.

Here is the diagram for vehicles in the EU28+2 (=EU28 plus Switzerland and Norway) market. Data relates to the year 2015.

Flows are in tons and ktons, blending two scales in one diagram. This merits its own post, I think. (read it here)

The electric vehicles currently driving on the roads are shown as “Stock”, meaning that the materials are in use and that they could eventually be recovered at the end of the life of the vehicle. This is the large stackd bar between “POM” (placed on market) and “De-reg Vehicles”. Again this stacked bar uses two different scales (tons and ktons).

Official report citation: Jaco Huisman, Pascal Leroy, François Tertre, Maria Ljunggren Söderman, Perrine Chancerel, Daniel Cassard, Amund N. Løvik, Patrick Wäger, Duncan Kushnir, Vera Susanne Rotter, Paul Mählitz, Lucía Herreras, Johanna Emmerich, Anders Hallberg, Hina Habib, Michelle Wagner, Sarah Downes. Prospecting Secondary Raw Materials in the Urban Mine and mining wastes (ProSUM) – Final Report, ISBN: 978-92-808-9060-0 (print), 978-92-808-9061-7 (electronic), December 21, 2017, Brussels, Belgium

Ann Arbor based consulting firm RRS has published a Sankey diagam visualization of the plastic streams in the United States. This is from their Data Corner blog.

Breakdown is in percentage values only. The amount of 8,300 MMT seems to be an aggregated figure for a 65 year period from 1950 to 2015. And 80% has ended up on landfills.

Original data is from a study ‘Production, Use, and Fate of All Plastics Ever Made’ authored by Roland Geyer of the University of California, Santa Barbara; Jenna Jambeck of the University of Georgia; and Kara Law from the Sea Education Association.

What would daily life in a ‘zero carbon’ Great Britain look like? Since 2007 the Zero Carbon Britain (ZCB) project of the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) has worked to “offer the hard data and confidence required for visualising a future where we have risen to the demands of climate science; to remove fear and misunderstandings and open new positive, solution-focused conversations.”

They have presented a Sankey diagram for the energy landscape in the UK, the way it could look like if Britain’s energy production was actually carbon free and 100% renewable energy.


via Open Energy Monitor blog, original image here (under CC BY-NC 2.0 license)

Flows are in TWh/year. The largest energy sources are wind and biomass. Some of the electricity is used to produce synthetic gas, synthetic liquid fuels and hydrogen (used mainly in the transportation sector). In that scenario there is even an electricity surplus that can be exported.

While I can not judge how realistic such a vision of the UK energy landscape is, I can at least say it is very different from the current situation (see here or here), and even from this UK 2050 energy scenario.

The European research project CASCADES’ objective was “to define the cascading use of wood and assess the environmental and socio-economic impacts of cascading, to identify and analyse the barriers preventing cascading”. As a central element of the project a wood flow analysis was conducted.

From page 26 the 2016 final report [Vis M., U. Mantau, B. Allen (Eds.) (2016) Study on the optimised cascading use of wood. No 394/PP/ENT/RCH/14/7689. Final report. Brussels 2016. 337 pages)] comes this Sankey diagram depicting wood flows in the European Union (EU-28).

All flows are in Mm³ swe (solid wood equivalent). No absolute numbers are given to quantify the flows, instead three sample arrows serve a reference to the scale (“Legend of dimensions”).

The wood biomass is either used as material (left branches) or as energy (right branch). On the material side wood industry (yellow path) and paper industry (blue path) take up most of the biomass. Residues of both industries along with a good chunk of the post-consumer paper waste are being recovered and led in a cascading loop, until they eventually shift to the energetic side.

A complex and interesting Sankey diagram with much to discover. The CASCADES report describes all the areas of the wood flow system, identifies hotspots and describes measures for optimization.

Europe’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) has published a new report on ‘Critical Raw Materials and the Circular Economy’ in December 2017.

The report also builds on findings from a 2015 study by BIO by Deloitte, where a Raw Material System Analysis (MSA) Framework had been introduced that “investigates the flows and stocks of 28 raw materials from ‘cradle-to-grave’, that is, across the entire material life cycle from resource extraction to materials processing to manufacturing and fabrication to use and then to collection, processing, and disposal/recycling”. I had posted about this here.

Like in the 2015 study the authors present MSAs for a number of critical materials (CRMs) within the EU-28 boundaries and are depicting them as Sankey diagrams. The authors then expand into how scarcity and price may impact certain industrial sectors or products (Automative, Electronics, Batteries, etc.). Best practices are suggested for recovering critical materials.

Here is the MSA Sankey diagram for Germanium (from page 41 of the report):


All flows are in kilograms per the reference year 2012. We can see that roughly 80.000 kg of Germanium entered the EU in the year 2012, and 15.800 kg were made available on the secondary material market within the EU.

For the individual industrial sectors, another type of figure is presented. This breakdown of how much of the CRMs is used in a specific sector gives a better understanding of the dependency on certain CRMs.

This Sankey diagram (from page 39 of the report) for the Electrical and Electronical Equipment sector shows, for example, that 87% of the Germanium (ge) entering the EU are used in the EEE sector, making it the largest consuming sector of Germanium. The remaining 13% are used in other sectors:

Crossing the information from the MSA Sankey diagams that show availability of a CRM, and the information from the Sankey diagram showing demands per sector gives a good understanding on why some materials are considered critical for industries, and measures for recovering more of them from tailings or waste are meaningful.

Source: Mathieux, F., Ardente, F., Bobba, S., Nuss, P., Blengini, G., Alves Dias, P., Blagoeva, D., Torres De Matos, C., Wittmer, D., Pavel, C., Hamor, T., Saveyn, H., Gawlik, B., Orveillon, G., Huygens, D., Garbarino, E., Tzimas, E., Bouraoui, F. and Solar, S., Critical Raw Materials and the Circular Economy – Background report. JRC Science-for-policy report, EUR 28832 EN, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg, 2017, ISBN 978-92-79-74282-8 doi:10.2760/378123 JRC108710.

Access JRC report here (PDF).

This week the global plastics flows topic made the news and social media with the publication of the EU Plastics Strategy and Chancellor Philip Hammond presenting the United Kingdom’s plan for tackling plastic waste.

Ellen MacArthur Foundation has long been active in research and awareness building in this field. It aims at supporting a transition to a circular economy. The foundation tweeting under @circulareconomy contributed this Sankey diagram. It is from a 2016 report they produced together with the World Economic Forum and McKinsey.

The Sankey diagram shows indeed, that “today, plastic packaging material flows are largely linear”. This beautifully crafted diagram had already caught my attention back in 2016 when I first saw it.

However, I had this subtle feeling that something was wrong here. Not regarding the content or the data … but rather that something wasn’t OK in the Sankey diagram, Just my gut feeling. Now, seeing the Sankey diagram again in the above tweet this week, I finally sat to quickly do a remake of this Sankey diagram. Here it is:

I stuck to the original layout and design as closely as possible, using the same color codes and even the white all caps font. While transfering the numbers (all percentage values, so no issue there), it immediately became clear to me what caused my irritation. Can you identify it yourself by comparing the two pics?

Won’t give it away now and wait for your comments. Will post the answers to this small ‘spot-the-difference contest’ here next week.

[Edit 24 Jan] Blog reader ‘First!’ was the first to comment and point out that the 2% recycling flow does not seem to be to scale (i.e too wide / overemphasized) in the Sankey diagram published by Ellen MacArthur Foundation, and possibly the same issue with the two arrows representing 14% each.

Baidu Zhidao (“Baidu Knows”) is the Chinese version of a Q&A website (like quora.com or answers.com), where users can post a question and others from the community answer it.

Here’s someone asking whether there is a China-made Sankey diagram software. This nice diagram is shown to explain what a Sankey diagram looks like. Please don’t ask me what is actually visualized here…


Source: Baidu Knows (百度知道)

The last weeks have been very busy, so I am just quickly firing off a few more Sankey diagrams from the depth of my hard disk before heading into the holiday season.

This one in German, showing the percentage breakdown of energy flows in a company. Haven’t noted the source, sorry.