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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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Iron and steel factsheet

The backbone of industrialised economies, iron (in the form of steel) is by far the most important metal in the world today. Strong when alloyed, abundant and relatively inexpensive in comparison to other metals, iron is used extensively in the construction of buildings, bridges and railways and in the manufacture of motor vehicles, machinery and equipment, and appliances. The rapid pace of industrialisation in the large emerging economies of Asia, China and India in particular, has lead to an unprecedented increase in the demand for steel and rising prices for steelmaking materials (i.e. iron ore and ferrous scrap). Although resources are abundant improving resource productivity remains a priority because of climate change concerns stemming from the energy intensity of the steelmaking process. Increased use of ferrous scrap offers limited opportunities for energy and raw material savings in the near term, but there is potential to achieve a circular iron economy as global in-use stocks stabilise in the long term.

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