UK is one of the most resource-efficient countries in the EU

The UK has become one of the top five countries in the EU for resource use efficiency and has successfully decoupled economic growth from total use of materials, according to a report commissioned by Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

The aim of the report, carried out by the Wuppertal Institute in Germany, was to establish a balanced account of UK material flows, and to derive indicators of resource use and efficiency for the UK as a whole.

It is reported that between 1970 and 1999 the UK Gross Domestic Product grew by 88%, during which time the Total Material Requirement (TMR) grew by only 12%. TMR measures the total material basis of the economy and is one indicator of resource use.

The report emphasizes that even a complete disconnection of economic growth and resource use does not necessarily represent sustainability. Of particular note is the fact that UK resource use still places high demands on the environment, and increasingly on the environment of the UK’s trading partners. In particular, oil and gas extraction account for an increasing proportion of the UK’s resource requirement.

Recommendations from the report include greater recycling and the development of policies that will significantly reduce the requirements for fossil fuels, minerals and metals, which will in turn contribute to an increase in overall material productivity.

DEFRA and the Office for National Statistics (ONS) will be carrying out further work to develop and improve the UK material flow accounts, by taking forward work to improve the quality of the data inputs.

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