Metal stocks in society: scientific synthesis - Summary

United Nations Environment Programme (2011)

Economic development is deeply coupled with the use of metals, but the growing demand implies a permanent pressure on the natural resource. In contrast, the growing metal stocks in our society can serve as mines above ground. However, there are considerable data gaps regarding the size of these metal stocks and their recycling potential. These gaps have to be filled. The recycling rates of many metals are low. Open material cycles are typical for consumer goods like appliances and electronics. Therefore, these product groups need special attention. Recycling rates are very low for specialty metals like indium, for which an appropriate recycling infrastructure still has to be developed. This development needs to be supported by policy instruments such as research and development, economic incentives, and capacity building activities. Tapping the full potential of mining above ground and closing of material cycles with appropriate global infrastructure are essential if we are to establish a green economy and to secure sustainable development.