The UK is on the verge of a raw material shortage and the government must act, a coalition of businesses and environmental organisations says today.
A joint letter to the coalition from the Material Security Working Group and Friends of the Earth warns that the UK must develop a stronger strategy to keep raw materials circulating within the economy or face "significant consequences" for UK industry.
The government's Resource Security Action Plan, which was published in March, should be significantly strengthened, the groups say.
Supplies of some raw materials are under threat because of increasing global demand coupled with rapidly degrading ecosystems, it is claimed.
The cost of raw materials has risen substantially in recent years, with commodity price rises in the last decade alone wiping out a century-long decline.
And despite recent fluctuations, the groups warn that material prices are projected to escalate as three billion people join the global middle classes, putting pressure on already fragile and depleted ecosystems.
In future this will mean a number of raw materials – from wood, plastic and rubber to the 'rare earth' metals used to make every day electronic products and low-carbon technologies – are likely to be increasingly costly.
A recent survey by EEF, which is a member of the Material Security Working Group, found 80 per cent of senior manufacturing executives considered limited access to raw materials a business risk and a threat to growth.
For one in three companies, it was their top risk.
In the letter the organisations call for:
The creation of an Office for Resource Management to formally deal with the looming raw material shortage
A task force to review existing targets and recommend policy changes to improve recycling
A ban preventing recyclable materials being sent to 'energy from waste' plants and landfills unless there is an environmental and economic case for doing so
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."