Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Managing Metal: New Study Raises Questions About Sustainability Of Metal Resources

Date:
January 24, 2006
Source:
National Science Foundation
Summary:
Researchers studying supplies of copper, zinc and other metals have determined that these finite resources, even if recycled, may not meet the needs of the global population forever. According to the study, if all nations were to use the same services enjoyed in developed nations, even the full extraction of metals from the Earth's crust and extensive recycling programs may not meet future demand.

This image shows copper in ore. The penny was once composed mainly of copper, but since 1982 the United States Mint has made pennies from copper-plated zinc.
Credit: USGS

Researchers studying supplies of copper, zinc and other metals have determined that these finite resources, even if recycled, may not meet the needs of the global population forever. According to the study, if all nations were to use the same services enjoyed in developed nations, even the full extraction of metals from the Earth's crust and extensive recycling programs may not meet future demand.

The researchers suggest the environmental and social consequences of metals depletion become clearer from studies of metal stocks--those in the Earth, in use serving people and lost in landfills--instead of tracking the flow of metal through the economy in a given time and region.

Yale University researchers Robert Gordon and Thomas Graedel and their colleague Marlen Bertram of the Organisation of European Aluminum Refiners report their findings in the Jan. 17, 2006, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"There is a direct relation between requisite stock, standard of living, and technology in use at a given time," said Gordon. "We therefore offer a different approach to studying use of finite resources, one that is more directly related to environmental concerns than are the discussions found in the economics literature."

Using copper stocks in North America as a starting point, the researchers tracked the evolution of copper mining, use and loss during the 20th century. Then the researchers applied their findings, and additional data, to an estimate of global demand for copper and other metals if all nations were fully developed and used modern technologies.

According to the study, all of the copper in ore, plus all of the copper currently in use, would be required to bring the world to the level of the developed nations for power transmission, construction and other services and products that depend on copper.

For the entire globe, the researchers estimate that 26 percent of extractable copper in the Earth's crust is now lost in non-recycled wastes. For zinc, that number is 19 percent. Prices do not reflect those losses because supplies are still large enough to meet demands and new methods have helped mines produce ever more material. So, the study suggests these metals are not at risk of depletion in the immediate future.

However, the researchers believe scarce metals, such as platinum, face depletion risks this century because of the lack of suitable substitutes in such devices as catalytic converters and hydrogen fuel cells. The researchers also found that for many metals, the average rate of usage per person continues to rise. As a result, the report says, even the more plentiful metals may face similar depletion risks in the future.

"This is looking at recycling on a broader scale," said Cynthia Ekstein, the NSF officer who oversees the Yale award. "This is looking at the metal lifecycle from cradle to grave."

The research emerged from a collaboration among researchers funded by National Science Foundation (NSF) Biocomplexity in the Environment - Materials Use: Science, Engineering and Society (BE - MUSES) program. The program task integrated, multidisciplinary teams with solving problems that transcend single fields of research.

The recent study demanded collaboration between experts in metallurgy, economics, industrial ecology and international studies. "You don't get much more interdisciplinary than this," said Gordon. "This would have been impossible with traditional, individual research projects."

Despite the far-reaching effort, specific, accurate global numbers are difficult to determine. The researchers hope that while the study may not establish definite answers, it will lead to new ways of looking at resource questions.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by National Science Foundation. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

National Science Foundation. "Managing Metal: New Study Raises Questions About Sustainability Of Metal Resources." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 January 2006. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/01/060123122555.htm>.
National Science Foundation. (2006, January 24). Managing Metal: New Study Raises Questions About Sustainability Of Metal Resources. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/01/060123122555.htm
National Science Foundation. "Managing Metal: New Study Raises Questions About Sustainability Of Metal Resources." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/01/060123122555.htm (accessed July 25, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Friday, July 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Goma Cheese Brings Whiff of New Hope to DRC

Goma Cheese Brings Whiff of New Hope to DRC

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 24, 2014) The eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, mainly known for conflict and instability, is an unlikely place for the production of fine cheese. But a farm in the village of Masisi, in North Kivu is slowly transforming perceptions of the area. Known simply as Goma cheese, the Congolese version of Dutch gouda has gained popularity through out the region. Ciara Sutton reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Bill Gates: Health, Agriculture Key to Africa's Development

Bill Gates: Health, Agriculture Key to Africa's Development

AFP (July 24, 2014) Health and agriculture development are key if African countries are to overcome poverty and grow, US software billionaire Bill Gates said Thursday, as he received an honourary degree in Ethiopia. Duration: 00:36 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Higgins Breaks Record at Mt. Washington

Higgins Breaks Record at Mt. Washington

Driving Sports (July 24, 2014) Subaru Rally Team USA drivers David Higgins and Travis Pastrana face off against a global contingent of racers at the annual Mt. Washington Hillclimb in New Hampshire. Includes exclusive in-car footage from Higgins' record attempt. Video provided by Driving Sports
Powered by NewsLook.com
Storm Kills Three, Injures 20 at Virginia Campground

Storm Kills Three, Injures 20 at Virginia Campground

Reuters - US Online Video (July 24, 2014) A likely tornado tears through an eastern Virginia campground, killing three and injuring at least 20. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

    Health News

      Environment News

        Technology News



          Save/Print:
          Share:

          Free Subscriptions


          Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

          Get Social & Mobile


          Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

          Have Feedback?


          Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
          Mobile: iPhone Android Web
          Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
          Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
          Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins