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Doing more with scarce resources - 26/01/2011

A forestry operation with a truck loading wood into a skip © EU

EU vision on smart use of natural resources, protecting the environment and driving economic growth.

A plan for more efficient use of the Earth's natural resources will feed into the EU's common goals on climate change, energy, transport, raw materials, agriculture, fisheries, biodiversity and regional development.

The plan is part of Europe 2020, the bloc’s strategy for sustainable growth and jobs. As well as conserving basic resources like clean air, water, land, forests and food, the EU wants to promote the reuse and recycling of minerals and metals, essential for a modern economy.

This will help boost efficiency, productivity and competitiveness. Companies that efficiently use raw materials, water and other manufacturing inputs for their products are able to cut costs, helping them to become more competitive.

Some industries are already innovating and reaping the rewards. For example, cement manufacturers are starting to use alternative fuels, raw materials and recycled waste to reduce CO2 emissions, energy costs and waste.

In Hungary, 56 companies have introduced environmentally friendly innovations that have saved them €59m. In the Netherlands, a chemical company that was consuming 9.9m litres of freshwater a day switched to household wastewater, allowing it to use 65% less energy and 500 tonnes fewer chemicals a year. It has also cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 5,000 tonnes.

Encouraging resource efficiency will be a guiding principle behind measures the EU is planning on a low-carbon economy, energy efficiency, transport, agriculture, fisheries and biodiversity.

These efforts will in turn encourage innovation and reduce the EU's dependence on imports.

The EU will also propose action on commodity markets and aims to ensure a secure supply of raw materials.

These measures are essential to the EU's economic well-being as China, India and other countries develop their economies, increasing global competition for scarce resources and driving up prices.

The EU’s construction, chemicals, automotive, aerospace, machinery and equipment sectors, which employ 30m people, all depend on access to raw materials.

More on a resource-efficient Europe

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