Material Resources, Productivity and the Environment

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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).


Copper factsheet

One of the first metals ever extracted by humans, copper has a long history of industrial use and is one of the most widely used metals in the economy today. An excellent conductor, copper plays a critical role in powering everything from homes, cars, and consumer electric and electronic devices to telecommunications and commuter rail networks. Strong demand and capacity constraints have led to an ongoing supply crunch and record level prices, renewing interest worldwide in copper recycling. Secondary copper markets are already well-developed and copper scrap is commonly traded internationally. The challenge ahead will be to increase stock of scrap through increased recovery and collection, particularly from fast growing waste streams, such as consumer electronics. Virgin copper resources will continue to be the world’s primary source of copper, making continued improvements in extraction and production efficiency important. Managing the environmental impacts of extraction is also important, particularly water usage in arid areas.


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