Materials, products and waste

In 2001, the South West consumed over 42.7 million tonnes of materials. These materials were either consumed directly (in their 'raw' form), for example fresh vegetables sold to a restaurant, or used in the processing and manufacture of other products, for example china clay for the production of paper.

Mining and quarrying of materials such as sand, clay and metal ores dominated production (which also includes extraction), accounting for 76% of total production in the region. Figure 8 shows material and product flows through the South West, in 2001.

Figure 8
Resource flows in the South West, by mass, in 2001

fig 8

Note: Totals may differ due to rounding.
Note: Other domestic goods include furniture, leather goods, other clothing and electronic items.
Note: Production only accounts for materials and excludes products in order to avoid double counting.

Sources: BGS, 2002; Bringezu & Shutz, 2001 & 2001a; DEFRA, 2002, 2003 & 2003c; FAO, 2002; Forestry Statistics, 2003; Highley et al., 2003; ONS, 2001a & 2003a and University of Plymouth, 2003

Materials, products and waste ecological footprint

This component includes all the materials and products consumed in the South West, which are not accounted elsewhere: for example, impacts relating to the manufacture of passenger vehicles are accounted in the 'passenger transport' ecological footprint so do not appear here. This component also includes the ecological footprint of waste, as materials and products eventually end up in the waste stream.

The ecological footprint for materials and waste in 2001 was 2.11 gha per person, and accounted for 38% of the total ecological footprint.

Breaking down the materials, products and waste ecological footprint by resource use, 81% of the footprint is associated with embodied energy, i.e. the energy used from all sources during the entire life cycle for manufacturing, transporting, use and disposal.

Breaking down the footprint by consumption mode, 36% (0.76 gha) of the footprint is associated with municipal solid waste, and 54% (1.13 gha) with commercial & industrial waste. Waste is examined in more detail here, and a more detailed breakdown of the materials, products and waste ecological footprint is provided in the Ecological Footprint Report.

The china clay industry

The South West is one of the world's leading producers of china clay (or kaolin). About 75% is used in the manufacture of paper, of which 80% is exported abroad. China clay is used in the manufacture of porcelain, tiles, paint, rubber and plastics. It can also be found in leather, textiles, medicine for upset stomachs and as an anti-caking agent in fertilizers and insecticides. 87% of china clay produced is exported, mainly to Europe.

A significant amount of waste is produced during the process of turning china clay from its raw form into a marketable commodity. It is estimated that for every tonne of pure clay recovered, approximately nine tonnes of waste is generated, consisting mainly of quartz, sand and rock. Due mainly to the introduction of the Aggregates Levy1 in 2002, companies have had to look for a market for this 'waste', most being sold on as secondary aggregate in the South West region. However, there is a large market yet to be exploited, with an estimated UK demand for 380 million tonnes. Table 3 shows the flow of materials and waste associated with the china clay industry in the South West in 2001.

Table 3
Material flows associated with the china clay industry through the South West, in 2001 ('000 tonnes)
  Imports Production Consumption Exports
China clay 95 2,204 371 1,930
China clay waste * 19,840 * *
* No data available
Sources: BGS, 2002; CHAIN, 2004; China Clay Museum, 2004; Cornwall UK, 2004; Dartmoor National Park, 1998; DEFRA, 2002a; ENDS, 2004; ODPM, 2004; Scottish Executive, 2003 and The Potteries, 2004

The aerospace industry

The aerospace industry is one of the most important and economically influential industrial sectors in the South West, one of Europe's premier aerospace industry regions. Hubs of activity are based in Bristol, South Gloucestershire and Taunton. BAE Systems, Rolls Royce Aerospace and Airbus are some of the prime contractors and system suppliers based in the region, where t he sector supports and relies on over 500 supply-chain companies. Main suppliers include Smiths Aerospace, Goodrich and the BAE Systems Avionics Group. In total, the industry provides an estimated 44,500 jobs in the region. It is predicted that these numbers are likely to increase, as there is a growth trend in the sector.

As the aerospace industry is prominent in the region, this study has tried to estimate the quantities of products imported, produced, consumed and exported by the industry. This was achieved using products data (ProdCom) provided by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Investigations revealed that the aerospace industry in the South West:

  • Imported over 57,000 tonnes of aircraft and spacecraft related products.
  • Produced over 15,000 tonnes of products.
  • Consumed approximately 35,800 tonnes of materials and products.
  • Exported 37,200 tonnes.

Due to the confidential nature of data in this industry, the most recent and complete data available was for 1999. As some data was unavailable or suppressed, it is likely that the figures mentioned here are an underestimate of what is actually imported, produced, consumed and exported by this industry.