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Natural resource and products use - UK material productivity increased by 7.2 per cent in 2009

Released: 30 November 2011 Download PDF

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Material productivity 1990 - 2009

Relationship between material use and economic activity
Source: Office for National Statistics

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In 2009, the sum of materials taken from the UK environment for economic use, total domestic extraction, was 458 million tonnes, down 12.5 per cent (66 million tonnes) from 2008.

Direct Material Input (DMI), which also includes imports to the UK, has fallen in every year since 2004 and by 18.3 per cent in total since 1990.  It is now at the lowest level since records began (1970).

The largest fall in 2009 was in minerals extraction with a decrease of 51 million tonnes (19.6 per cent) driven by a sharp fall in the extraction of primary aggregates – crushed stone, sand and gravel – as demand was impacted by the economic downturn. The extraction of fossil fuels also fell by 8.5 per cent to 147 million tonnes, largely as a result of lower volumes of natural gas extraction.

In 2009 the mass of imports fell by 3.7 per cent to 268 million tonnes.  For the second year in a row imports decreased after five consecutive years of growth with volumes of imports at historically high levels.  The fall was mainly driven by reduced imports of minerals (6.4 per cent), biomass (5.6 per cent) and fossil fuels (2.5 per cent).

In 2009 Domestic Material Consumption (DMI less the mass of goods exported from the UK) decreased by 10.8 per cent from 634 million tonnes in 2008 to 566 million tonnes in 2009.  Exports in the same period were down by 4.3 per cent (7 million tonnes).

Material productivity has increased between 1990 and 2009. This trend indicates that material use is falling in relation to the level of economic activity in the United Kingdom and supports evidence that domestic material use and economic growth have decoupled since 1990. However, levels of imports have generally risen over the same period suggesting that some of the environmental impacts associated with consumption are being transferred abroad.

Source: Office for National Statistics

Background notes

  1. The material flow accounts do not currently make any estimate for the raw materials extracted overseas to deliver manufactured and semi-manufactured goods imported to the UK, only accounting for the import in the form that it enters the country. An article prepared by Defra is published today as part of this release to examine the potential for developing a raw material consumption measure to complement the existing accounts.

  2. Details of the policy governing the release of new data are available by visiting www.statisticsauthority.gov.uk/assessment/code-of-practice/index.html or from the Media Relations Office email: media.relations@ons.gsi.gov.uk

    These National Statistics are produced to high professional standards and released according to the arrangements approved by the UK Statistics Authority.

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