According to new research, which is examining the unknown environmental cost of using raw materials, a staggering 20% of the world’s resources that are extracted for use end up as waste.
A study from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation & Development (OECD) has discovered that we extract 62 billion tonnes of resources such as minerals, wood, metals, fossil fuels and biomass fuels every single year, which works out as an average of 10 tonnes for every living person on earth.
The OECD report Sustainable Materials Management explains the benefits of applying a lifecycle approach to resource use, so that we are able to see the true extent of embodied carbon and water attached to products, services and consumer goods.
Some of the key findings showed that some products were more damaging to the environment that the actual packaging. For example the production of milk produces 5 times more CO2 than the actual packaging which means that wasting milk is more damaging to the environment than purchasing smaller containers.
Although nobody likes to throw away things that still work, advances in technology have made it so that the updating of old appliances is more environmentally friendly as the older appliances are less resource efficient. For example modern washing machines can use 50% less energy and water than washing machines from 10 years ago.
The authors of the report have made several recommendations to further separate economic growth from environmental degradation. One of the biggest obstacles needed to be overcome is that material flows involve many stakeholders throughout the supply chain and often over wide geographic areas. It would need multiple Governments to work closely with industry and other key parties to encourage cooperation, innovation and cost savings.
Consumers also have a large part to play by making more informed choices. These include reducing the use of unnecessary materials, reusing and recycling, and taking advantage of advances in technology to purchase resource efficient appliances.
The findings of the study will go to the European Resource Efficiency Platform, an EC initiative that provides guidance to the European Commission on the transition to a more resource-efficient economy.
Recipro sourced this article from Edie