EU resource efficiency improves but trend remains ‘volatile’

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The European Union generates €1.60 of economic value for each kilogramme of material consumed, compared to €1.34 a decade ago, but progress towards resource efficiency remains “volatile”, according to the EU’s statistics office.

The data, released by Eurostat on Thursday (12 December), suggests that the European Union gradually ‘decoupled’ economic growth and its use of resources between the years 2000 and 2011.

The €0.26 gain in efficiency came because EU gross domestic product (GDP) grew faster than the average household’s consumption of materials.

“These divergent trends - GDP growing while DMC [domestic material consumption] falls - imply an absolute decoupling of economic growth from resource use in the EU between 2000 and 2011,” said the Eurostat report, ‘2013 monitoring report of the EU sustainable development strategy’.

Economic crisis reduces consumption

But the economic crisis may have had an impact on the figures, Eurostat said, as households began to cut down on waste and expenditure, whether they saw their income drop or not.

“Since 2007, EU resource use has dropped sharply, putting DMC below levels seen even ten years ago. However economic recovery indicates a trend reversal in 2011,” said the report.

Eurostat therefore defined resource efficiency as an area showing “volatile” progress, compared to other “sustainable development” indicators included in the report.

The resource efficiency part of the report only included materials which had entered the "formal" economy, such as food, cleaning products and fuel. Eurostat used data such as surveys, administrative sources and statistical estimations provided by EU countries.

The re-use, recycling or incineration of materials are ways to deliver increased economic value from each kg of material produced, the European Commission says.

Eurostat publishes the report every two years to monitor Europe’s progress towards its goals of sustainable development, defined as the improvement of the quality of life and well-being of each EU citizen.

Walter Radermacher, Eurostat’s chief statistician said the report, its fifth edition, was intended to contribute “on behalf of the European Union to the global debate on the future of sustainable development and the challenges lying ahead of us all - citizens, policy makers and statisticians”.

The other sustainable development indicators include socioeconomic development, public health, social inclusion and climate change and energy, among others.

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