In the last post I looked at the evidence of the decreasing use of resources in the UK. The Environmental Accounts have just provided a new measure of material use, called Raw Material Consumption, which gives us a better estimate than previous series. The new index includes a figure for the resources used elsewhere in the world to make things that are then imported into the UK. If we divide Raw Material Consumption, expressed in millions of tonnes, by GDP we get a figure for the weight of physical resources the UK uses to generate a £ sterling of income. The figure has fallen from about 513 grams in 2000 to around 358 in 2012. The average reduction is just under 13 grams a year for each £ sterling of GDP. This is equivalent to a 30% reduction since 2000. (All these figures exclude fossil fuel consumption, which isn’t included in the statistics. However we do know that energy consumption is also falling fairly consistently each year).
Grams per £ sterling of GDP is an important measure and should be targeted. As we move haltingly to an economy that productively recycles everything for ever, we will reduce the volumes of materials harvested or mined. And moving to low carbon sources of energy, whether PV or nuclear also reduces the weight of resources we need to extract, as well as reducing CO2 emissions.