Australia State of the Environment Report 2001 (Theme Report)
Lead Author: Professor Peter W. Newton, CSIRO Building, Construction and Engineering, Authors
Published by CSIRO on behalf of the Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2001
ISBN 0 643 06747 7
Urban stocks and processes (continued)
Australia is a major producer of both finished materials and intermediate material feed stocks and ores for the world market. Table 17 shows the extent to which Australia supplies the world, particularly with coal and non-ferrous metal ores and finished material. The implications of this for human settlements is that the global, regional and local impacts from this production occur in and are attributed to Australia, even though the uses and demands for these materials occur in overseas markets.
|Materiala||Australian production (kt)||Percentage of world production||Percentage of Australian production consumed locally||Consumption as a percentage of production (after accounting for imports)|
|Other non-ferrous oresC||6 976||NA||NA||NA|
|Iron oreD||159 657||15.3||11||11|
|Crude steelE||8 800||1.1||101||101|
|Wood and wood chipsF||8 870||NA||NA||NA|
|Construction materials (concrete bricks, gravel, sand, clay)J||98 045||NA||99||99|
|Agriculture produce (crops)K||32 693||NA||27||30|
|Agriculture produce (meat)L||3 636||NA||42||43|
|Agriculture produce (dairy)M||9 016||NA||50||54|
A1997 (Australian Aluminium Council 2000), local consumption based on economic input-output data from 1994-1995.
B1997 (Australian Aluminium Council 2000).
C1997 (DISR 1999); includes copper, gold, lead, manganese, nickel, uranium and zinc, but not mineral sands.
D1997 (DISR 1999).
E 1997, local consumption based on economic input-output data from 1994-1995.
F1997, from ABS quarterly production data.
G 1997 (PPMFA 1998).
H 1997 (Alyward and Sutherland 1999).
I 1997 (Plastics News International 1998).
J 1997 (ABS 1998d).
K1996-1997 ABARE (2000), based on data for wheat, oats, barley and canola; imports from economic input-output data from 1994-1995.
L Sheep and beef data from Meat and Livestock Association (MLA 2000); pig data from Meo and Cleary (1999); seafood production data from ABARE (2000) given in dollar values and converted with average price of $10/kg; imports from economic input-output data from 1994-1995.
M Australian Dairy Corporation (1999); imports from economic input-output data from 1994-1995.
Australia requires a total material flow of about 180 tonnes per person per year to support the lifestyle of its population (Foran and Poldy 2000). This is more than twice that of any other OECD country (Table 18). Moreover, the rate of growth of the Australian flows is substantially above that of other OECD countries.
|Country||Material flow (tonnes/person)|
Note: Data from Adriaanse et al. (1997) has been adjusted to exclude hidden flows associated with imports; see text.
Source: Foran and Poldy (2000); Adriaanse et al. (1997).
This data should be considered in context. First, total material flows have export as well as domestic components and have hidden as well as direct material flow components (see Figure 23). Hidden material flows include overburden in mining operations, wastes from mineral concentration processes, and soil loss associated with agricultural production. Hidden flows represent over 70% of total material flows, and as a rule provide no economic benefit to the exporting country but typically have an environmental cost (e.g. mine overburden, tailings etc.).
Figure 23: Components of total material flow per person, exports and domestic consumption, each disaggregated into direct material input and hidden flow.
Source: Foran and Poldy (2000)
Australia's very high material flow, shown in Table 18, is therefore seen in Figure 23 to be made up largely of hidden flows and growth due to exports. Australia's position then is in part a reflection of the export commodity industries in which the nation has chosen to become involved (documented in discourses that stretch from Quarry Australia to The Future Eaters).
While Tables 17 and 18 and Figure 23 deal with total material production, Table 19 deals with direct domestic consumption of materials in Australia, both in total and in per capita values. These are important indicators as they relate more closely to Australians' personal consumption without the distortions of our export economy. It is important to reduce these rates of consumption because they represent a stress pressure on resources, both in terms of the materials themselves as well as the energy and other physical inputs that are required to produce them. Additionally, material production results in undesirable outputs, such as soil loss, sediment and nutrient loads to waterways, greenhouse gases, urban air pollutants, and traces of toxic emissions to the environment. Much is being done in industry to reduce these impacts, but reduction at the source through lower material use is also required.
|Material||Domestic consumption (kt)||Consumption per capita (kg)|
|Crude steelA||8 895||478|
|Wood and woodchipsB||4 341||233|
|CoalD||54 000||2 900|
|Construction materials (concrete bricks, gravel, sand, clay)A||97 299||5 226|
|Agricultural produce (crops)E||8 693||467|
|Agricultural produce (meat)F||1 527||82|
|Agricultural produce (dairy)G||4 508||242|
A1997, estimated from production figures divided by economic split between local consumption and exports.
B 1997, from National Association of Forest Industries sourced from ABARE data.
C 1997, from PPMFA Newsletter.
D 1997, from coal yearbook.
E Consumption data derived from production less exports-may have some inaccuracy due to stock changes.
F Consumption estimated by subtracting exports from production; consumption data from MLA (2000) suggests 100 kg/year, which would also include imported meat not taken account of here.
G Australian Dairy Corporation (1999).
It is also important to monitor the trend in materials use over time. Figure 24 shows the growth in direct materials use in the period from 1946 to 1991. Three distinct 'boom' periods are evident, especially in relation to demand for construction materials, methods and energy. The first was immediately following the end of the World War II, when there was a major surge in domestic construction both in the housing and non-residential sectors. This was sustained for more than a quarter of a century due to demands generated by immigrant and baby-boom households, and an expanding economy. The second commenced in the mid-1960s and is linked to the boom in mining in the more remote regions of Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory, and the growth of new mining towns (discussed in some detail in the 1996 SoE Human Settlements chapter). The third commenced in the late 1970s and 1980s and was linked to the energy boom which followed the oil crisis of the early 1970s. This is being sustained to the present by virtue of the role Australia is playing as a low-cost supplier of energy to industry and commerce.
Figure 24: Trend in direct material use per person, 1946-1991.
Source: Foran and Poldy (2000)