Tag: waste

Textile Flows in the United States

RRS, a consulting firm with expertise in waste reduction, life cycle management and applied sustainable design has this Sankey diagram on textile streams in the US garment industry.


While the figure doesn’t show any numbers explicitly (which I am sure exist, and were used to set up this schematic Sankey diagram), the idea is to show existing alternative paths for post-consumer textile use. Green flows are recycle, reuse and repurpose, while red streams are to incineration. The largest stream is to landfills. RRS is developing ideas and helping to change the material flows in the textile sector to be more environmentally friendly.

New York Zero Waste Scenario 2030

Came across an interesting article by Tei Carpenter, ‘Waste Not, Want More: Zeroing In on Designing Waste’ in the Avery Review 33 (September 2018). It describes a transition to a zero waste scenario for New York in 2030.

This is the Sankey diagram for the waste situation today (that is… 2018). An incredible 12,838 tonnes per year day. Of which 75% would theoretically be recyclable. Instead, 80% end up as refuse, while only 20% are “diverted”.


There is also a second Sankey diagram that shows how the city would handle its waste in 2030 with a zero waste strategy. Read the article at Avery Review or download as PDF.

Non-Ferrous Metal Waste Paths

Another spectacular Sankey diagram from the final report of the project “Resource conservation through material flow-oriented secondary raw materials management” published by German Environment Protection Agency (Umweltbundesamt, UBA). This one is on non-ferrous metals in waste and recycling paths Germany. Flows are in mio. t for the year 2013.


I had presented another Sankey diagam from this report (on paper and cardboard streams) here on the blog back in January. You can access the full report here.

Tokyo, Paris, Mexico City: MSW flows

A comparison of the different pathways that municipal solid waste (MSW) is going in large metropolitan centres such as Toyko, Paris and Mexico City is presented in the article ‘La recogida de basura en Mega-ciudades: En el marco de la sostenibilidad’ by Fabian Tron. Available in Revista INVI v.25 n.70 12/2010 on Scielo in Spanish.


While the data on waste quantities itself is quite old and dates back to 2005, I found the system how household waste is handled differently in these three cities quite interesting. To get an idea of the “weight” of the different pathways, I decided to do a remake of the three figures as Sankey diagrams. Here is the one for Tokyo.


Flows are in 1000 tonnes (kt) per year. There is an informal sector (Economia Informal) where waste streams are not under control of the municipality. The largest part of non-recyclable household waste goes directly to incineration or “reduction”. The remainder is led to treatment plants and eventually most of it ends up in landfill (Vertedero). Note that smaller flow quantities are over-emphasized and are not to scale (otherwise they would hardly be visible in the diagram).

If you want to see the two other Sankey diagrams, please let me know in the comments.

WEEE in Midi-Pyrénées

From what I know, France’s approach to tackling energy and waste issues is to break the topic down to the regional level, and to involve local stakeholders.

Here is an article on ‘Métabolisme territorial et filières de récupération-recyclage: le cas des déchets d’équipements électriques et électroniques (DEEE) en Midi-Pyrénées’ by Jean-Baptiste Bahers that was published in the journal Développement Durable et Territoires. Vol. 5, n°1 in February 2014.

It discusses the ‘Territorial metabolism and recovery-recycling chain: the example of Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) in the “Midi-Pyrénées” region and has the following Sankey diagram figure.


Licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0

WEEE waste streams are in kilo tonnes (kt) in the year 2008. Additionally, recovered energy from waste treatment is shown (in MWh) with orange arrows. The red line delimits the region, so apparently the electronics waste recycling and disposal (élimination) takes place outside the Midi-Pyrénées region. Some flows are labeled with a range (e.g. 6-14 kt), which is obviously difficult to draw as Sankey arrow. My guess is that the median value was used to determine the actual width of the affected arrows. A nice feature are the per capita values (e.g. 2-4 kg/hab), which makes it much easier to grasp and to relate to for the indivdual person living in Midi-Pyrénées.

Losses in Fruit Production

Food loss or wastage has been a topic a previous posts here on the Sankey diagrams blog before (see here or here).

Here is another Sankey diagram from the dissertation ‘Environmental assessment of Catalan fruit production focused on carbon and water footprint’ by Elisabet Vinyes i Guix (p. 73). It visualizes losses in the production chain for apples and peaches in Catalunya.


For each kg of fruit arriving on the market (or at the point of sales), some 1.21 kgs of fruit are being cultivated. Losses occur in the farming process itself as well as along the retail system. Of the 1 kg fruit purchased by the consumer, only 83% is actually eaten. 17% turns into waste.

European Plastics Packaging Waste Study

Deloitte Sustainability in a 2017 report titled ‘Blueprint for plastics packaging waste: Quality sorting & recycling’ showed the results of “a quantitative and a qualitative analysis of the main packaging resins (PET, HDPE, LDPE, PP) based on the flows in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK, which represent 70% of the plastic waste generated in Europe”.

The plastic waste streams for the year 2014 are shown as a Sankey diagram on page 16.


The collection rate that year on a European average was at 37% and the recycling rate at 13%. Most of the packaging waste goes to incineration and landfill.

The study also looks at improvement potential in plastics waste collection and recycling. The plastic packaging waste streams for a possible 2025 scenario with a collection rate of 74% and a recycling rate of 55% is also shown as Sankey diagram for comparison.

Household Waste Recyling in Spain

An interesting blog post titled ‘Cuando las cuentas no cuentan’ (which I would figuratively translate as ‘When the numbers don’t match’) by Sergio Sastre over at the ‘Residuos Profesional’ blog.

Looking in detail at the official municipal solid waste recycling numbers for all 17 autonomous communities in Spain, published by the Environment Ministry (Ministerio para la Transición Ecológica – MITECO) for 2016, Sergio and his team found that there are discrepancies in the data, and that data quality needs improvement.

The overall recycling rate for municipal solid waste (MSW) in Spain is 33.6% … still far from the 2020 goal to reach a 50% recycling rate.

This Sankey diagram shows the breakdown of waste streams.

Flows are in tonnes per year. Of the overall 21.7 million tonnes of MSW generated in Spain, only some 7.2 million tonnes were recycled in 2016 (pink streams). A large chunk if household waste is mixed (grey stream, residuos mezclados, RM), while only a quarter is collected separately (colored streams in the lower part of the figure, recogida selectiva, RS).

Some material can be recovered from the mixed waste stream at sorting facilities and in composting plants or biogas digestors.