The size of the world economy is expected to double and world population to grow by one-third by 2030. With rising income and living standards, global consumption of fossil fuels, minerals, metals, timber and food crops is also growing, generating pressures on natural resources and the environment.
But prosperity does not need to increase the “weight of nations”, i.e. the amount of material resources that economies consume. By reducing, reusing and recycling (the 3Rs) materials, economies can reduce the need for virgin materials and improve resource efficiency. Significant progress has been achieved in improving resource productivity in the G8 and in the OECD over the past 30 years, but further efforts are needed to reduce the material consumption of our economies.
The report “Resource Productivity in the G8 and the OECD” (also available in French), responds to a request by G8 Environment Ministers at their meeting in Kobe in 2008, presents an evaluation of progress on resource productivity. It highlights key trends and main policy developments related to resource productivity in OECD countries, with a particular focus on efforts to implement sustainable materials management; and identifies the main policy challenges and opportunities and discusses the steps that need to be taken to achieve further progress.
DMC : Domestic Material Consumption
GDP : Gross Domestic Product
Some of the conclusions of the report are that:
- Global extraction of material resources continues to grow, despite significant improvements in countries’ resource productivity, i.e. the amount of material resources that is used per unit of output.
- Per capita consumption in G8 and OECD countries remains at high levels and is about three times that of the rest of the world.
- Within the G8, Canada, Germany, Italy and Japan have succeeded in decoupling material consumption from economic growth in absolute terms, i.e. to decrease the amount of material resources that they use.
- If indirect material flows associated with trade are taken into account, i.e. material flows that are not incorporated into traded products such as materials for resource extraction and processing, progress in countries that are net resource importers is more modest.
- While G8 countries offer a mixed picture on total annual waste generation, with some countries showing a decrease and others an increase, a generally positive trend can be observed in municipal waste management (representing roughly 10% of total waste).
- Further progress can only be achieved through more integrated policy approaches that take account of the full life-cycle of materials and are designed according to the principles of Sustainable Materials Management developed by the OECD.
OECD Council Recommendation on Resource Productivity [C(2008)40]
OECD work on material flow analysis