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You are here: Home / News / Taking stock of our resource use on World Environment Day – 5 June 2011

Taking stock of our resource use on World Environment Day – 5 June 2011

Humans are consuming the world’s limited resources at increasingly rapid rate, and Europe is particularly reliant on imported goods to sustain its high levels of consumption. On World Environment Day, the European Environment Agency (EEA) draws attention to Europe’s resource use and offers tips to reduce it.

We need a long-term vision. This means weaning ourselves off fossil fuels and becoming more resource efficient. In the EU, for example, we use 16-17 tonnes of raw materials per person, which is two or three times more than that used in the developing world. So we need to change, from consuming everything we want to just consuming the things we need.

EEA Executive Director Professor Jacqueline McGlade

“We need a long-term vision,” EEA Executive Director Jacqueline McGlade said. “This means weaning ourselves off fossil fuels and becoming more resource efficient. In the EU, for example, we use 16-17 tonnes of raw materials per person, which is two or three times more than that used in the developing world. So we need to change, from consuming everything we want to just consuming the things we need.”

Some facts on resource use in Europe:

  • Consuming even small amounts of resources can indirectly use large amounts of other materials.  For example, producing one tonne of steel leaves behind a hidden flow of four tonnes of other materials, while this is a staggering 400,000 tonnes a tonne for platinum .
  • Resource use is accelerating. Between 1980 and 2005, global resource extraction grew by 50 %, while experts predict  that extraction will increase by approximately 75 % in the 25 years from 2005-2030.
  • Europe is highly reliant on imported resources – in 2008, the EU-27 imported more than six times as much raw materials as it exports – bringing in 1 384 tonnes of materials, while exporting 203 million tonnes.
  • As high quality ore deposits and easily accessible fossil fuel reserves shrink, more energy is needed to extract resources – leading to greater climate change impacts.
  • The EU produces approximately six tonnes of waste for every person. However, increasing recycling and recovery turns more and more of this waste into resources in many countries.

 

Europe needs to decouple resource use from economic growth, according to the State and Outlook of the Environment Report (SOER) published by the EEA in 2010. Although this may sound like a difficult and complex task, all European citizens can play a part. Reducing consumption and increasing recycling are both important parts of the puzzle – perhaps something to consider on World Environment Day.

To find out how you can reduce your impact on the environment, check our Green Tips.

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