Metal production is responsible for 7-8% of global energy use as well severe environmental impacts. Recycling would decrease both, but even if recycling increased, rising global demand for many metals would remain a huge environmental challenge.

    The report

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      This report, compiled by a group of international experts, focuses on the impact of metals on the environment as well as on their life-cycle energy use. Currently, primary metals production is responsible for 7-8% of the total global energy use as well as for severe local environmental impacts. The report suggests applying best available techniques and to increase recycling of metals, which not only requires significantly less energy per kg metal produced than primary production but also helps decreasing the overall local impacts of mining. However, even if recycling rates are increased, rising global demand for many metals will remain a huge environmental challenge in the next decades worldwide.

      Main issues of concern for policy-makers presented in this report:

      • presently, the demand for metals is rising rapidly and this trend is expected to continue for the next decades
      • a shift towards a renewable energy system implies the material, and especially metal, intensity of energy production will increase even faster
      • in future, the energy intensity of the production of metals may increase as a result of mining lesser grade ores. For some metals, a trend of decreasing ore grades is visible, and for more it may become visible over the next decades.

      • UNEP (2013) Environmental Risks and Challenges of Anthropogenic Metals Flows and Cycles, A Report of the Working Group on the Global Metal Flows to the International Resource Panel. van der Voet, E.; Salminen, R.; Eckelman, M.; Mudd, G.; Norgate, T.; Hischier, R.

      Did you know?

      For some specialty metals used in mobile phones and solar cells recycling rates are less than 1%.

      Picture: Freeimages/BOB SMITH

      Did you know?

      Primary metal production is responsible for 7-8% of global energy use.

      Did you know?

      Impacts on air, water, land and biodiversity occur along the whole life cycle of metals.

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