Material flow analysis (MFA) is a quantitative method to figure out the flow of materials and energy through economy. MFA works by capturing mass balance in an economy, where extraction and import can be considered as inputs and consumption and export as outputs. The mass balance of inputs should be equal to outputs, which is useful in determining the efficiency of the use of material resources. From the perspective of waste in general, MFA is required to develop a standard tool of waste statistics between countries. However, it can be difficult to implement for plastic waste because many plastic materials, such as polyethylene and polypropylene, are used for different products (Moriguchi and Hashimoto, 2016).

MFA of Plastics in Thailand

Bureecaam, Chaisomphob, and Sungsomboon (2018) demonstrate the MFA for plastic waste and plastic waste management in Thailand. They use primary and secondary sources to obtain the data from 11 provinces.

Figure 1. MFA of Plastic in Thailand in 2013 (Source: Bureecaam et al., 2018).

Figure 1 shows that the petrochemical industries in Thailand produced 7,827,481 tonnes of raw materials in 2013, around 1,101,329 tonnes of which were derived from recycled materials. After 2,732,675 tonnes were consumed, the generated plastic wastes were 3,560,595 tonnes. Some of the plastic wastes were then collected and disposed of by the local government, whilst 499,295 tonnes remained uncollected.  The collected plastic waste went to different treatment facilities, 765,883 tonnes of which were recycled while 220,949 tonnes of plastic waste were incinerated to generate energy. The remaining 1,986,648 tonnes of plastic waste were disposed of to a landfill site. Unfortunately, 597,115 tonnes of plastic waste were improperly managed in the collection and transportation process. The waste was then mixed with the uncollected waste in the previous process, resulting in 1,076,410 tonnes of plastic waste that ended up in the open environment, which potentially leaked into the oceans.

MFA of Plastics in the Philippines

MFA for plastic scraps in the Philippines is shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2. MFA of Plastic Scraps in the Philippines (Source: Japan International Cooperation Agency, 2008).

The Philippines produces 1,013,242 tonnes of plastic per year that are derived from three sources: imported resins (581,639 tonnes/year) and imported plastic waste (14,841 tonnes/year), local supply of recycled plastic (288,000 tonnes/year), and from local production of virgin raw material (128,762 tonnes/year). The number of total plastic products is then calculated by adding total plastic production and import of plastic finished product (344,493 tonnes/year) or 1,357,735 tonnes/year. To obtain the total local consumption, this number is deducted from the number of exported plastic finished product (96,330 tonnes/year), thus 1,261,405 tonnes/year.

Local consumption of plastics is processed in different phases: recycled, kept (still being used), and disposed of to landfill. Recycled plastic accounts for 243,267 tonnes/year. Those still being used and those disposed of to landfill account for 574,309 tonnes/year and 399,096 tonnes/year, respectively (Japan International Cooperation Agency, 2008).  Unfortunately, the study of MFA in the Philippines does not calculate the amount of unmanaged plastic waste that ends up in the open environment and could leak into oceans.

MFA of Plastics in Malaysia

Malaysia’s plastic inventory was calculated based on a survey study, which showed 587,062 tonnes of local production of plastic products. Added to the 170,248 tonnes of imported plastic products, the amount of total plastic products was 733,828 tonnes. Local consumption of plastics was 511,697 tonnes, whilst exports were 222,131 tonnes. Of local plastic consumption, 47,843 tonnes were recycled whilst the rest (463,854 tonnes) went to final disposal. This study does not cover the amount of plastic waste that ended up in the open environment. Details of MFA plastics in Malaysia are shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3. MFA of Plastics in Malaysia (Source: National Solid Waste Management Department Ministry of Housing and Local Government, 2011).

MFA of Plastics in Viet Nam

Plastic material in Viet Nam was derived from two sources: domestic resin (1,000 Ktonne) and imported resin (5,900 Ktonnes). Plastic (semi) product was used for export and domestic purposes. Exports of plastic (semi) products stood at 3,803 Ktonnes, whilst plastic (semi) products for domestic purposes were 3,690 Ktonnes. Domestic use of the products was by consumers, such as food processing, beverage, textile, and electronics industries, and by end-users, such as households, markets, hospitals, and schools. Unfortunately, the process generated 730 Ktonnes of uncollected plastic waste that were disposed of into oceans.  The 2,815–3,115 Ktonnes of remaining plastic waste were collected and transported to the next process. First, 807 Ktonnes of resin were exported. Second, the remaining waste and scraps were recycled. The waste generated from recycling, collection, and transportation was eventually disposed of in landfill. The waste that went to landfill reached 1,308 Ktonnes.

Figure 4. MFA of Plastics in Viet Nam (Vietnam Business Council for Sustainable Development and United States Business Council for Sustainable Development, 2019).

In summary, looking at the MFA of plastic-related products in Southeast Asian countries, it can be observed that some plastic wastes were still uncollected or improperly managed, thus ending up in the open environment and oceans, as in the Philippines and Viet Nam. In general, countries in this region have huge amounts of plastic wastes that went to landfill instead of being recycled or used to generate energy. At the same time, uncontrolled landfill can lead to leakage of plastic waste into oceans.


Bureecam, C., T. Chaisomphob,  and P. Sungsomboon (2018), ‘Material Flows Analysis of Plastic in Thailand’, Thermal Science22(6 Part A), 2379–2388. (accessed 1 September 2021).

Japan International Cooperation Agency (2008), The Study on Recycling Industry Development in the Republic of the Philippines Final Report.  (accessed 1 September 2021).

Moriguchi Y. and S.Hashimoto(2016), ‘Material Flow Analysis and Waste Management’ in Clift, R. and A. Druckman (eds), Taking Stock of Industrial Ecology. Springer, Cham. pp. 247–262. (accessed 1 September 2021).

National Solid Waste Management Department-Ministry of Housing and Local Government Malaysia (2011), A Study on Plastic Management in Peninsular Malaysia.  (accessed 1 September 2021).

Pincetl, S. (2012), ‘A Living City: Using Urban Metabolism Analysis to View Cities as Life Forms,’ in Zeman, F. (ed), Metropolitan Sustainability. Woodhead Publishing, Cham. pp. 3–25. (accessed 1 September 2021).

Vietnam Business Council for Sustainable Development and United States Business Council for Sustainable Development (2019), Vietnam Materials Marketplace. (accessed 1 September 2021).