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Material Resources, Productivity and the Environment

image of Material Resources, Productivity and the Environment

Improving resource productivity and ensuring a sustainable resource and materials management building on the principle of the 3Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle) is a central element of green growth policies. It helps to improve the environment, by reducing the amount of resources that the economy requires and diminishing the associated environmental impacts, and sustain economic growth by securing adequate supplies of materials and improving competitiveness. To be successful such policies need to be founded on a good understanding of how minerals, metals, timber or other materials flow through the economy throughout their life cycle, and of how this affects the productivity of the economy and the quality of the environment. This report contributes to this understanding. It describes the material basis of OECD economies and provides a factual analysis of material flows and resource productivity in OECD countries in a global context. It considers the production and consumption of materials, as well as their international flows and available stocks, and the environmental implications associated with their use. It also describes some of the challenges and opportunities associated with selected materials and products that are internationally-significant, both in economic and environmental terms (aluminium, copper, iron and steel, paper, phosphate rock and rare earth elements).

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An evolving economic context and new environmental challenges

The last decades have witnessed unprecedented growth in demands for raw materials worldwide, driven in particular by the rapid industrialisation of emerging economies and continued high levels of material consumption in developed countries. At the same time, international commodity markets have expanded, with increasing international trade flows, and increasing mobility and fragmentation of production. This has been accompanied by increases in, and volatility of, commodity prices, and by growing competition for selected raw materials.

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