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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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Phosphorus factsheet

One of the three macronutrients essential for plant growth, phosphorus is fundamental to sustaining human life. But the lack of substitutes in agriculture and the concentration of the earth’s finite phosphate mineral reserves in a handful of countries are raising questions about future global food security. At the same time, eutrophication – the harmful build up of excess nutrients in lakes, rivers and marine environments – is a growing concern. Ensuring that there will be enough phosphorus to feed a population that is expected to grow to over 9.2 billion by 2050, while limiting the load on the environment, will require an integrated approach that focuses on both supply and demand solutions. Closing the nutrient cycle loop by recovering phosphorus from organic sources and changes in food consumption patterns will be critical.

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