The goal of environmental protection is to prevent damage by early recognition of possible hazards. In the present paper, the potential of materials accounting techniques to forewarn of critical loadings on water, air and soil is assessed. For this purpose, the anthropogenic and natural contributions to the metabolism of a region are measured and estimated respectively. The control of man-made material fluxes to the environment is discussed with regard to a waste management concept based on sustainable fluxes of emissions and final storage quality of landfill materials. According to the results, regional material balances are powerful tools for integrated waste management: they allow the setting of priorities in waste management by identifying important material quantities and qualities, they are the base for the design and evaluation of waste treatment technologies, they are necessary for environmental impact statements, and they allow the recognition and minimization of the overall flux of materials from the anthroposphere to the environment.