Consumo ad absurdum
20 December 2007 by David Bott
Anyone who has been anywhere near Materials UK over the last year will know that I am a big fan of the work of Tom Graedel. I first met him at an American Chemical Society meeting in Washington several years back. His down to earth approach and rigour of analysis made a large impression on me. The basic idea of his analysis is to map the flows or a particular material and work out where it goes and how much is “working capital” in the system. He has carried out this analysis for several metals and several countries and – at least when I saw him talk – was able to reduce his analysis to a simple and persuasive argument. In America every person has about 170 Kg of copper tied up in the systems and infrastructure that they use. In China, the equivalent number is 35 Kg. If everyone in China wanted the same amount of copper in their systems and infrastructure, there would not be enough copper on the planet to satisfy demand. The situation is not unique to copper and the more analysis people carry out, the more basic materials they recognise as resource limited. There are, of course, materials where there is more than enough to go around.
The Policy and Regulation Working Group of Materials UK has got together with the Materials KTN to run a series of workshops to communicate and explore this challenge and you can find a registration form here. This first one focuses on materials used in the Energy and Aerospace industries, but the series will attempt to encompass all classes and applications of materials.