World risks ‘disaster’ as reuse of natural resources falls

KUALA LUMPUR: The proportion of raw materials the world is reusing has fallen, researchers said on Tuesday, warning of a “global disaster” as annual consumption of natural resources rose to 100 billion tonnes for the first time.
Just 8.6 per cent of the 100 billion tonnes of materials — including minerals, metals, fossil fuels and biomass — was put back into service in 2017, said a report by Amsterdam-based social enterprise Circle Economy, using the latest available data. That compares with 9.1 per cent of materials that were used again two years earlier, when annual consumption was 93 billion tonnes, CEO Harald Friedl said. .
“For the first time in history, more than 100 billion tonnes of materials are entering the global economy every year,” he said.
“We are going from bad to worse in terms of circularity. This is really dramatic news at the beginning of this year, which only points to one thing: action.” To reduce waste and emissions, and keep climate change in check, economies should seek to become “circular” by reusing and recycling products, green groups say.
The amount of materials the world uses has tripled since 1970 and could double again by 2050 if no action is taken, the United Nations estimates.
Friedl said the world was relying on extracting virgin materials to fuel growth, rather than making better use of existing resources.
“We are risking global disaster if we continue this way of limitlessly using the world’s resources,” he said, urging faster action to keep the average rise in global temperatures to limits adopted in the 2015 Paris Agreement.
Governments must lead the change in their economies, he said, by collaborating on circular strategies, working with businesses, green groups and academics.
— Thomson Reuters Foundation