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LIMITED RESOURCES : REPORTS URGE MORE EFFICIENT USE OF RESOURCES AND RECYCLING.

Two important reports, presented simultaneously by the European Commission and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) on 26 May, have called for a radical change in the way limited resources are used. The first report shows that it is possible to vastly increase recycling rates for metals; currently, only 18 metals are recycled at a rate above 50%, while not even 1% of other metals are recycled. The second report underlines the need for radical decoupling of economic growth from the use of resources in order to avoid a crisis between now and 2050, and presents future scenarios based on scientific evidence on the future consumption of resources(1).

The reports, written by UNEP's International Resource Panel, call on legislators and decision makers to reduce the use of resources and improve recycling rates. Despite industry concerns over their scarcity and costliness, recycling rates for certain metals which are essential for high technology are as low as 1%. According to the report Recycling rates of metals - 2011', if these practises are not radically changed, many rare metals and materials could become unavailable for use in modern technology. On the other hand, metals such as iron, steel, copper, aluminium, lead, and zinc are recycled at a rate between 25% and 75% globally, although these rates are slightly lower in some developing countries.

The growth of recycling, thanks to improved collection systems and recycling infrastructures - especially in developing countries - prevents the emission of millions of tonnes of greenhouse gases, and could create large numbers of green' jobs. According to the report, recycling of metals uses between two and ten times less energy than the obtaining of metals via the fusion of virgin ores.

The report Decoupling natural resource use and environmental impacts from economic growth' says that if no action is taken, the level of consumption of natural resources could triple between now and 2050. This is equivalent to an annual consumption of 140 billion tonnes of minerals, ore, fossil fuels and biomass. Since this level of consumption is unsustainable, the only solution is to decouple' economic growth from the consumption of natural resources by using the latter more efficiently. The report presents three possible scenarios; the most ambitious of these would call on developed countries to reduce by two thirds their annual use of resources per citizen from the current level of 16 tonnes, while other countries would be required to maintain their current level. In this way, the consumption of resources could be stabilised at 2000 levels.

(1) The reports are available atwww.unep.org/resourcepanel

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Publication:Europe Environment
Date:Jun 2, 2011
Words:425
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