Objective of this study is to support the development of a Thematic Strategy for Sustainable Use and Management of Resources through the provision of background information, in particular "an estimate of materials and waste streams in the Community, including imports and exports" (Article 8 a 6th EAP) using the method of material flow accounting. It further presents first ideas on how the resource use pattern of the EU can be assessed with regards to priority setting for possible policy measures.
By referring to the concept of Industrial Metabolism, resources are defined in a broad sense, embracing the source and sink function of the natural environment, i.e. the provision of raw materials and land, and the absorption of residual materials (waste and emissions). Environmental impacts are associated not only with the extraction, harvesting and catching of raw materials but also with the subsequent production, use and disposal of products and goods. It is the total of environmental impacts associated with the entire life cycle of raw materials which has to be considered.
Three generic "management rules" for the sustainable use and management of renewable and non-renewable natural resources are presented and discussed which have been formulated by several political institutions based on scientific literature:
1. The use of renewable resources should not exceed their renewal and/or regeneration rates.
2. The use of non-renewable resources should not exceed the rate at which substitutes are developed (should be limited to levels at which they can either be replaced by physically or functionally equivalent renewable resources or at which consumption can be offset by increasing the productivity of renewable or non-renewable resources).
3. Outputs of substances to the environment (pollution) should not exceed the assimilative capacity of environmental media ("absorption capacities").
Stephan Moll, Stefan Bringezu, Helmut Schütz:
Resource Use in European Countries
An estimate of materials and waste streams in the Community, including imports and exports using the instrument of material flow analysis
(Wuppertal Report no. 1)