At a glance
- Per capita raw material consumption fell by 24 % between 2000 and 2016. No trend could be detected for the recent time period since 2009.
- These figures include raw materials which were required for the production of consumed goods at home and abroad.
- German raw material consumption is too high by international comparison and has to be reduced further.
The production of goods and the provision of services requires raw materials. The German economy is strongly integrated internationally. Germany imports and exports large quantities of semi-finished and finished products. The weight of raw materials used for this manufacture is taken into account in the calculation of the raw material equivalents. These include all raw materials used in the production of these goods both at home and abroad. The indicator shown here includes the total weight of all goods used in Germany for home consumption – including the ‘raw material equivalents’. In order to make the issue understandable and comparable, ‘raw material consumption’ is referred to the number of inhabitants in Germany.
The mining or cultivation of these raw materials and their subsequent processing are accompanied by large environmental impacts. If the global per capita raw material consumption were as high as in Germany, this would put a heavy burden on global ecosystems. Germany is therefore responsible for reducing the use of primary raw materials.
Assessing the development
Raw material consumption per capita fell by roughly 24 % between 2000 and 2016. This is mainly due to reduced expenses for investments and construction. While the consumption of households, non-profit institutions serving households (NPISH) and general government in 2016 declined by 5 % compared to 2000, primary raw material expenditure on fixed assets investment fell by around 28 % over the same period. This development can be explained above all by the decline in construction investments between 2000 and 2010. After 2010 construction investments increased again, leading to higher consumption of mineral based raw materials. Also, waste recycling is relevant: Recycling reduces the demand in raw materials, which would else have to be extracted from the environment. Overall the raw material consumption hasn’t shown a clear trend since 2010.
So far German and European policies have not set any target for raw material consumption. However, experts and the German Environment Agency believe that consumption of raw materials needs to be reduced considerably. Political strategies such as the German Resource Efficiency Programme III (BMU 2020, in German only) head in the right direction, but require further ambitious development in the long term.
The indicator ‘Raw material consumption’ is composed of domestic raw material extraction and imports minus exports. In order to calculate indirect imports (raw material equivalents) use is made of input-output and linkage tables plus data on imports and exports in the German economy. The method was developed in research projects for the German Environment Agency and is described in a research report (UBA 2016, in German only).