Issue: October 2016, Raw materials – Extraction, processing, recycling


From Pliny to the present day – the strategic use of raw materials

Foreword by Michael Sailer, CEO, Oeko-Institut

In the little free time that I have, I like to read the old scholars and historians – Pliny, for example. My summer reading was his Natural History, which is a collection of ancient knowledge of the natural sciences. In one section of his work, Pliny writes about metals and ores and their importance in the ancient world. Even back then, in 77 AD, there were signs of a sustainable approach to raw materials use: Pliny describes how old tools, those made of copper for example, should be melted down and the raw materials re-used.

Nowadays, the notion of recycling is central to a sustainable resource policy. However, strategic management of raw materials goes far beyond re-use, as we explained in our first issue this year (“A roundabout, not a one-way street”). In particular, the procurement of raw materials, frequently from countries outside Europe, must now be tackled strategically and monitored. That is because for us, in the industrial countries, it is no longer just the question of where raw materials for our manufacturing industry come from that counts, but also the conditions under which they were produced. Sustainable production has to meet both environmental standards and social criteria, and must avoid unilateral dependences.

This latest issue of eco@work describes the challenges of and solutions for a sustainable resource policy both for Germany and internationally. It also offers the first more detailed insight into our project “Germany 2049: Transition to sustainable use of raw materials”, which we have funded ourselves, in order to develop a future-proof sustainable resource strategy for Germany. This and other research projects are the focus of this year’s annual conference, to which you are warmly invited. It will be held in Berlin on 1 December 2016.

I hope you enjoy this issue.


Michael Sailer
CEO, Oeko-Institut

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