Primary tabs

Use of non-renewable resources


Non-renewable resources include raw materials such as iron ores/metals and minerals as well as environmental media (air, water, soil) and land area ( European Thematic strategy on the sustainable use of natural resources). They are used as input factors for economic activities or as emission sinks. The exploitation, processing, transport, use and disposal of resources generate environmental  impacts on the global (climate change), regional and local (contamination of soils or ground water) level. Increasing resource efficiency is a strategy for improving the resilience of the environment, society and economy. Only few resources are scarce in physical terms (e.g. phosphorous) and suppy shortages most often stem from short-term market distortions and politically motivated export restrictions.

Different approaches to resource policy follow different strategies and aims such as:

  • securing an approriate supply of raw material as input for the ecomomy.   
  • an absolute limitation of resource use per capita and dematerialisation of the economy; 
  • a relative decoupling of resource use and economic activity (e.g. the Roadmap to a resource efficient Europe);
  • a decoupling of resource use and environmental impacts (e.g. the Enquete-Commission of the German Bundestag on 'growth, prosperity and quality of life').

Measures comprise the use of secondary material, the substition of material, or measures to stimulate innovation towards more resoure-efficient products.
Europe is import dependent on many non-renewable resources. The exploitation of resources and disposal of end-of life products - including environmental impacts - often takes place outside Europe. 

This text is for information only and is not designed to interpret or replace any reference documents.

Guiding Question

Does the policy reduce or increase use of non-renewable resources?

Sub-questions that should be considered comprise:

  • Does the policy reduce or increase availability of non-renewable resources for the economy?
  • Does the policy lead to a shift in the use of resources between individual resources?
  • Does the policy reduce or increase the environmental impacts from mining?
  • Does the policy lead to a shift in the geographical origin of resources?
  • Does the policy change environmental impacts (from the use and disposal) of products? 

Relevant policies



Further sources of data


Further sources of information

European Commission: 


UNEP International Resources Panel:

Giljum, Stefan et al. 2013: State-of-Play of National Consumption based Indicators: A review and evaluation of available methods and data to  calculate footprint-type (consumption-based) indicators for  materials, water, land and carbon Indicators

Mudgal et al., 2012: Preparatory study for the review of the thematic strategy on the sustainable use of natural resources.


Eurostat Indicators

  • Resource productivity
  • Components of domestic material consumption
  • Domestic material consumption, by material
  • Waste generation and treatment 
  • Waste streams
  • Surface- and groundwater abstraction as a share of available resources
  • Population connected to urban wastewater treatment systems with at least secondary treatment

Eurostat water long-term indicators

  • Total fresh water abstraction
  • Total fresh water abstraction per capita

Other Official Indicators

EEA Water Indicators

  • Nitrate in groundwater
  • Pesticides in groundwater
  • Emissions to water of hazardous substances from industry
  • Emissions to water of hazardous substances from urban sources
  • Urban wastewater treatment
  • Emissions of nitrogen and phosphorus from urban wastewater treatment plants
  • Sectoral use of water in regions of Europe
  • Water use in urban areas - Household water use
  • Water use efficiency (in cities): leakage
  • Water exploitation index
  • Groundwater overexploitation and saltwater intrusion
  • Mean water allocation for irrigation in Europe - Water use for irrigation
  • Mean water allocation for irrigation in Europe - Irrigated land in Europe
  • Water prices - Agricultural, industrial and household water prices
  • Water prices - Domestic water use price: average increases in selected European countries


Publications and applications

Content for this term

Title Type Updated date
Mari Jüssi Expert 2014-03-17 12:26
Use of Non-Renewable Resources Impact Area 2013-06-18 10:23
Use of Renewable Resources Impact Area 2013-06-13 17:50