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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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Paper factsheet

Paper was one of the first products made by humans. Originally fabricated from plant fibre exclusively for writing, today paper is made mainly from wood fibre and is used in a variety of applications, ranging from packing boxes to personal hygiene. Despite challenges from new media and alternative materials, global demand for paper products continues to grow particularly in China and other non-OECD economies. Although the pulp and paper industry produces 50% of its own energy from biomass, production remains energy intensive and contributes to global greenhouse gas emissions. Water use and timber harvesting methods are other core environmental sustainability issues. The use of recovered fibre can reduce these environmental pressures to some extent, but there are signs that recycling rates may soon reach their natural and practical limits in some countries that are important global suppliers. Further energy and material efficiency gains will require focusing paper collection efforts in new supplier countries and expanding the use of best available technologies.

English

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