The consumption of raw materials in the world is on the rise as emerging economies are increasing the number of goods they are manufacturing. A recent study conducted by Wrap has shown that there is an increased problem for the UK as raw materials are becoming increasingly scarce.
Dr Liz Goodwin is the Chief Executive of Wrap and she has said, “The UK must take another approach to how it is consuming resources. There is now more pressure than ever on raw materials and therefore they have become increasingly expensive.”
She made these comments at the Green Alliance conference in a talk about how the UK should be tackling scarce resources. In her talk she highlighted how the UK could be reusing more materials as this will greatly reduce the amount of spending on them and also be beneficial for the environment. She suggested that by 2020 around one fifth of all materials should be being reused.
Wrap estimate that over 500 million tons of materials and products are brought into the economy of the UK every year but only around 100 million tons is being reused. Around 1500 tons of this is rare metals which can be found in a huge array of everyday items including fuels, ceramics, computers and televisions.
She continued, “These metals are a central component in many everyday items but we are not good at recycling them and the rates of recycling are around 1%.” Wrap have come up with some quick solutions for increasing the amount of rare metals that are being recycled and this will make a large contribution to reducing the carbon footprint of the UK over the next decade.
It is also expected that by recycling materials the risk associated with not being able to find the raw resources will be partly relieved. Dr Goodwin went on to say, “Strategies that focus on extending the life of electrical goods are those that are going to have the greatest impact and these are what we should focus on. We have identified four different approaches that can be used to bring about a quick change to the amount of rare metals that are being recycled and used efficiently.
“The first of these is making production leaner, meaning that there will be less waste of these rare metals. There should also be a focus on making products to have a longer lifespan so that they are disposed of less quickly.
This will mean that the consumption of rare metals will decrease and there will be less concerns over supply. We expect that over the next 10 years the UK will dispose of over 10 million tons of electrical waste which will contain around 20 tons of iridium and 60 tons of palladium.
“At the current market value these metals are worth around £1.5 billion. Recycling these materials is just one method that we must take in order to reduce their potential impact on the economy and the environment. There are other business models that can also be explored.”