Material Flows in the EU economy

Up on the EUR-Lex, the European Union’s database on laws, regulations, publications and reports is a staff working paper ‘Measuring progress towards circular economy in the European Union – Key indicators for a monitoring framework’ meant as accompanying background text for a ‘Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions on a monitoring framework for the circular economy’.

And it shows this beautiful Sankey diagram on material flows in the EU economy (2014).

Beautifully crafted, this diagram shows that “8 billion tonnes of raw materials were processed during 2014 in the EU: of this 1.5 billion (i.e. around 20%) are imported, which indicates the EU dependency on imports of materials. Out of the 8 billion tonnes of processed materials, 3.1 billion tonnes are directed to energetic use, 4.2 to material use and 0.6 are not used in the EU but exported.”

Flows are in Gt/yr (billion tons per year. The composition of the flows is presented at certain points in the diagram as bar charts on top of the dark blue bands: metal ores, non-metallic minerals, fossil energy materials/carriers and biomass. For each of those four groups individual Sankey diagrams can also be found in the working paper.

The EU never stops to surprise me! In this case in a positive way, as Sankey diagrams seem to have arrived at the top echelons of European policy making (or at least with their staff).


  1. Olov says:

    Any idea on which software they are using. These Sankeys are beautiful!


  2. phineas says:

    Hey Olov,

    my first guess was e!Sankey. But then there are some details such as the ‘Backfilling’ stream staying absolutely parallel to the ‘Recycling’ stream even along the curves… so I am not 100% sure.

    The stacked bars overlay is not part of any Sankey diagram software to my knowledge, so they were probably done by a graphic designer.

    Maybe someone else can shed a light on this.

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