World’s consumption of materials hits record 100bn tonnes a year

World’s consumption of materials hits record 100bn tonnes a year

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: January 22, 2020 SNIP: The amount of material consumed by humanity has passed 100bn tonnes every year, a report has revealed, but the proportion being recycled is falling. The climate and wildlife emergencies are driven by the unsustainable extraction of fossil fuels, metals, building materials and trees. The report’s authors warn that treating the world’s resources as limitless is leading towards global disaster. The materials used by the global economy have quadrupled since 1970, far faster than the population, which has doubled. In the last two years, consumption has jumped by more than 8% but the reuse of resources has fallen from 9.1% to 8.6%. The report, by the Circle Economy thinktank, was launched at the World Economic Forum in Davos. It shows that, on average, every person on Earth uses more than 13 tonnes of materials per year. But the report also found that some nations are making steps towards circular economies in which renewable energy underpins systems where waste and pollution are reduced to zero. Marc de Wit, the report’s lead author, said: “We are still fuelling our growth in population and affluence by the extraction of virgin materials. We can’t do this indefinitely – our hunger for virgin material needs to be halted.” The report found that 100.6bn tonnes of materials were consumed in 2017, the latest year for which data is available. Half of the total is sand, clay, gravel and cement used for building, along with the other minerals quarried to produce fertiliser. Coal, oil and gas make up 15% and metal ores 10%. The final quarter are the plants...
Deep-sea ecosystems under threat from an emerging ocean industry

Deep-sea ecosystems under threat from an emerging ocean industry

SOURCE: The Ecologist DATE: March 15, 2019 SNIP: It would probably surprise you to hear that there are rich, deep-sea ecosystems under threat from an emerging ocean industry… and virtually no-one knows about it. Within the next decade, the deep-sea mining industry plans to send 300-tonne vehicles to harvest tens of thousands km2 of deep seafloor for minerals considered vital to the future of green technology. But these hard mineral resources are also home to fragile and diverse ecosystems, some new to science and some yet to be found. Currently in its exploration phase, deep-sea mining is targeting three different types of mineral resources on the deep-ocean floor: potato-sized manganese nodules, also known as polymetallic nodules, that carpet vast areas of abyssal plains; cobalt crusts, also known as ferromanganese crusts, that form on the slopes of some undersea mountains; and seafloor massive sulfides, that form at undersea hot springs called hydrothermal vents. The nodules are rich minerals of economic interest such as Nickel, Copper, Cobalt, Lithium and Rare Earth Elements, a group of elements vital for green technology, such as neodymium magnets for wind turbines and hybrid cars. [A]t hydrothermal vents… hot fluids burst out of the crust, precipitating minerals to form the seafloor deposits. These can be formed subsurface, or on the seafloor where the “chimneys” of hydrothermal vents tower up to 30m tall, all enriched in minerals such as Iron, Zinc, Copper, Lead, Gold and Silver. Both resource types provide hard surfaces for many species to attach to and create biodiversity hotspots filled with organisms often new to science. However, low food availability, cold temperatures, and low...