raw materials

Raw materials are basic substances or mixtures of substances in an untreated state except for extraction and primary processing. They can be subdivided into primary and secondary raw materials.

Primary raw materials are the product of the primary production sectors, which encompass the extraction of natural resources from the environment and their transformation through processing or refining. The obtained raw materials are primary commodities, the base materials for further manufacturing and consumption processes.

These materials will finally end up as waste, from which secondary raw materials can be derived. For a more detailed look at data and indicators regarding waste, please refer to the Environmental Data Centre on Waste page.

Further differentiations are commonly used, e.g. the distinction between renewable/non-renewable, biotic/abiotic, and material/energy raw materials.

For the purposes of this data centre, primary raw materials are categorised as follows:

Typical energy carrier materials such as fossil fuels can be found under energy resources, although they have uses in material applications, e.g. as feedstock for the chemical industry (plastics). Biomass, used for both material and energy applications, can be categorised as a raw material as well as an energy resource. Refer to the JRC Raw Materials Information System (RMIS) for further information on raw materials, e.g. for definitions and categorisation.

Most European countries are net importers of raw materials. The 2009 review of the sustainable development strategy encourages the sustainable use of resources and strengthens the synergies between environmental protection and growth. The key challenge is to develop sustainable consumption and production, setting the objective to decouple economic growth from environmental degradation. Various indicators present data on raw material use in the context of the Europe 2020 strategy and the sustainable development strategy, which can be used to monitor progress in this area. The most prominent indicators are domestic material consumption (DMC), resource productivity, and raw material consumption (RMC), all of which rely on the approach of material flow accounts. Material flow accounting is based on the physical weight of extracted, traded or consumed goods. The above-mentioned indicators measure the material extracted within, imported to and exported from an economy, either with (DMC) or without (RMC) their material backpacks, i.e. the amount of raw materials needed to produce the traded goods. Resource productivity measures economic activity (GDP) in relation to DMC, providing information about the degree of coupling between these economy-wide indicators.


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data sources

Eurostat's economy-wide material flow accounts (EW-MFA) are environmental accounts measuring the interaction between the economy and the environment in order to understand the sustainability of current production and consumption activities. EW-MFA include extraction of all industrial and construction minerals, metals and metal ores, biomass, and fossil fuels. They account for imports and exports of all goods and, in doing so, mainly track direct rather than indirect material flow accounts: domestic extraction, imports, and exports.