Action demanded on raw material shortage

A coalition of business groups and environmentalists has urged the government to take immediate action on the pending raw material crunch facing the UK.

A joint letter sent to the government from the Material Security Working Group, which includes the manufacturers' organisation EEF and Friends of the Earth, warns that there will be significant consequences for UK industry if a stronger strategy isn't put in place to keep valuable raw materials circulating within the economy. The group claims increasing global demand coupled with rapidly degrading ecosystems is already putting pressure on supplies of some raw materials. Despite recent fluctuations, material prices are projected to escalate exponentially in the next few years as three billion people join the global middle classes, putting pressure on already fragile and depleted ecosystems. In the future, a greater number of materials – from wood, plastic and rubber to the rare earth metals used to make every day electronic products and low carbon technologies – are expected to be become more expensive. A recent EEF survey found that 80% of senior manufacturing executives considered limited access to raw materials a business risk and a threat to growth. One in three companies said it was their top risk. The survey also revealed that £650million worth of valuable materials are being thrown into landfill or burned in the UK each year, despite rising costs of natural resources. The group is therefore urging ministers to create safeguards to ensure that resources are used more efficiently to create and protect tens of thousands of jobs, minimise environmental degradation and help revitalise the economy. Commenting, EEF head of climate and environment policy Gareth Stace, said: "We live in an age where global demand for resources is surging with prices on an upward trend and concerns about shortages mounting. Whilst the government's Resource Security Action Plan was a step in the right direction, it falls short of meeting the challenges we will face when obtaining new resources will become more difficult and costly. "Government must now step up its ambitions and produce a bolder plan of action that deals with the challenges not just now but in the longer term. This is vital not just from an environmental perspective, but to ensure a long term sustainable future for manufacturing and the wider economy."