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World’s hunger for raw materials likely to boost pollution

by Cheryl Hogue
October 27, 2018 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 96, Issue 43


Photo shows heavy equipment with a mechanical arm ending in a giant metal claw that is reaching into a huge heap of scrap metal.
Credit: Shutterstock
The metal recycling industry is predicted to grow in the next 40 years.

World demand for raw materials—including fossil fuels, metals, and biomass—is expected to double in the next four decades, an international report says. This increase in demand is likely to worsen pollution and contribute to climate change, says the report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation & Development, a group of the world’s 36 richest countries. OECD predicts the environmental problems are apt to happen despite ongoing improvements in manufacturing efficiency and a move in the world economy to service industries. The recycling industry is likely to grow rapidly, especially in metals, yet remain much smaller than the mining sector, which is expected to boom, the report says. The report also predicts the world chemical industry’s output will triple between 2011 and 2060, while its material intensity—the amount of input needed to make a product—will fall slightly from an already-low level.


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