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Zero waste actions could save 38 million tonnes of resources per year by 2020

New research backed by Zero Waste Scotland has set out for the first time how much raw materials could be saved by adopting simple zero waste actions.

10 Nov 10

The research, “Securing the Future – Resource Efficiency in the UK” has been published today by UK organisation WRAP, which delivers the Zero Waste Scotland initiative.

It has shown that 13 ‘quick-win’ resource efficiency measures – which include both leaner production methods and actions consumers can make, like using ‘big ticket’ items for their full lifespan through reuse and repair - would dramatically reduce use of water and ‘at risk’ raw materials.

Excluding water and fossil fuels, the UK currently uses around 520 million tonnes of raw materials a year directly. The research looked at 11 materials of concern – including iron ore and steel, wood, plastics, aluminium, gypsum, copper, cobalt, lithium and rare earths - and showed that resource efficiency strategies could reduce our use of these materials by 38 million tonnes per year by 2020.

It also concluded that our reliance on specific materials such as rare earths, cobalt and lithium, could be reduced by 10-30% by 2020 through the strategies. Rare Earths (used in laptops, flat-screen TVs, I-pods and mobile phone) have been recently highlighted as potentially at risk as China currently produces 97% of the world’s supply and has announced it will cut exports by a third next year.

The UK Government also named “disruption to international supplies of resources (e.g. food and minerals)” as a tier three Security Risk in its National Security Strategy released on October 18th 2010.

This work builds on the unique research of WRAP’s 2009 report: Meeting The UK Climate Challenge: The Contribution of Resource Efficiency where the 13 resource efficiency strategies were developed and were found to deliver as much as 10% of the UK’s obligations to reducing greenhouse gases if implemented. 

The report represents the first known attempt to track the movement of materials across the whole of the UK economy, rather than simply looking at sectors and products in isolation.

Iain Gulland, Director of Zero Waste Scotland, said:  “There is growing concern about the future security of valuable resources given the rate at which we are using them.

“This ground-breaking research shows there are things we can all do to make a real difference if there is a will to tackle this problem. The solutions require fresh thinking from individuals and the business community around how we produce and consume goods and services.”

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