Global raw material use has more than doubled since 1990. According to the UNEP International Resource Panel, 84 billion tons of raw materials were extracted worldwide in 2015, on average 11.45 tons per capita. Resource use is always linked to impacts on the environment. Extraction of raw materials is often energy intensive and involves the use of chemicals, materials and water leading to contamination of soil and water and the loss of biodiversity. In addition, the processing of raw materials, their transport, the use of final products and their disposal also cause environmental impacts, such as carbon emissions and pollution. With an increasing world population and continuing economic growth, material use is projected to rise to 180 billion tons in 2050 if current trends continue. This would lead to an even further increase of global and local environmental impacts.
At present, only 9% of the resources used worldwide are recycled. With population and economic growth, the pressure on available biomass, fossil fuels, ores and non-metallic minerals such as sand and gravel is growing. This is already causing considerable environmental and climate damage.
Even if secondary raw materials are increasingly used, valuable raw materials are lost over the entire life cycle even in a Circular Economy. This is for example due to miniaturization of products, use of compound material and toxic additives that are used. Strategies to use the available resources much more effectively are therefore necessary, as the linear economic model is increasingly reaching planetary limits.
The transition process towards a resource- and climate-friendly and at the same time, socially oriented Circular Economy offers many opportunities: Potential exists in all sectors and phases of the value chain, from avoidance and substitution to raw material extraction, sustainable production and consumption patterns, new business models to high quality recycling at the end of the utilization phase. The inclusion of the informal sector plays an important role in creating decent working conditions.