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Sound and independent information
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You are here: Home / Environmental topics / Natural resources

Natural resources

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The Earth's natural resources are vital to the survival and development of the human population. These resources are limited by the Earth's capability to renew them. Although many effects of overexploitation are felt locally, the growing interdependence of nations, and international trade in natural resources, make their demand and sustainable management a global issue. More

Key facts and messages
Natural resources and waste — Environmental regulation and eco-innovation have increased resource efficiency through a relative decoupling of resource use, emissions and waste generation from economic growth in some areas. However, absolute... more
Biodiversity and the ecosystem services upon which we all depend are inextricably linked. Both are under pressure from humanity's ever-increasing use of natural resources. Europe's high resource consumption results in an ecological footprint... more
Soil is a largely non-renewable natural resource that underpins a range of vital ecosystem services. Soil organisms play a key role in soil processes, such as bio-geochemical cycles, organic matter decomposition, and nitrogen transformation.... more
Certain regions of Europe are affected by soil salinisation, acidification, landslides or desertification, with considerable economic and environmental consequences. Soil degradation is accelerating in many parts of Europe, exacerbated by human... more
Nutrient enrichment is a major problem in the coastal and marine environment, where it accelerates the growth of phytoplankton and can lead to oxygen depletion. Concentrations of some heavy metals and persistent organic contaminants in marine... more
Consumption of goods and services in the EEA member countries is a major driver of global resource use – and associated environmental impacts – as the levels of European demand exceed the continent’s ability to meet them from within its... more
The growth in global trade is resulting in an increasing share of the environmental pressures and impacts caused by consumption in EU countries being felt beyond their borders. While some of this shift is between EU countries, a large part is... more
Europe, like much of the industrialized world, is using an increasing amount of materials. The EU-27 average annual use of material resources is some 16 tonnes per person. On average, about six tonnes of waste per person are generated each year... more
Europe's economy is heavily dependent on imported raw materials — in 2011 approximately 1 600 million tonnes of raw materials were imported into Europe – that’s about 3.2 tonnes per person. Fuels accounted for most of this amount. more
The European economy generates more than five tonnes of waste, including hazardous waste, per inhabitant each year, and each citizen throws on average half a tonne of household waste into the bin. more
More jobs at higher income levels are created by recycling than compared to landfilling or incinerating waste. Overall employment related to the recycling of materials in European countries increased by 45 % between 2000 and 2007. more
Public water demand in eastern Europe has declined by 40 % since the early 1990s as a result of higher water prices and the economic downturn. A similar but less marked reduction in demand is apparent in western Europe over recent years, driven... more
Recycling can meet a large proportion of the economy’s resources demand, alleviating pressure on ecosystems to provide resources and assimilate waste. Recycling already meets substantial proportions of demand for some resource groups, notably... more

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European Environment Agency (EEA)
Kongens Nytorv 6
1050 Copenhagen K
Denmark
Phone: +45 3336 7100