Resource and waste-stream modeling and visualization as decision support tools for sustainable materials management

Pi Cheng Chen, Kun Hsing Liu, Hwong wen Ma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Sustainable Materials Management requires the knowledge of complex material flow system. However, it's difficult for the policy maker and industries to know the flows for the lack of the expertise to implement material flow analysis. Facing this issue, we designed a web-based tool to generate interactive Sankey diagrams for developing strategies to sustainably manage resource and waste flows through a complex economy. By examining the opportunities across a material's lifecycle, this tool supports sustainable materials management, which is important in reducing environmental pressures and the demand for resource extraction. Three applications were developed for (1) tracking resource flows along supply chains, (2) identifying economic activities that cause waste generation, and (3) tracing the material footprints for a sector. To finish the applications, we integrated a comprehensive resource and waste database with several input–output analysis based material flow models. For easy recognition of the key flows and activities, Sankey diagrams can be generated using a data-visualization technology. This article demonstrates the material management practices that can be discovered with the information of the flow system from the applications. Examine the flow paths of resources, several practices for sand and gravels are formulated based on the key activities in processing or using the material. Overviewing the driving forces of industrial wastes, we also pinpoint the practices to reduce the generation of coal ash. Tracking the resource footprints of economic activities, we highlight that the construction sector can use the cement made from blast furnace slag as to reduce the footprint. Also, we explain how this approach facilitates the coordination of government's interagency actions and the engagement of private sectors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)16-25
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Publication statusPublished - 2017 May 1

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Strategy and Management
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering


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