Material Consumption, a Key Problem for Sustainable Development in Romania
Romania is on the podium in the top 3 in terms of domestic material consumption between EU Member States and holds the first position in the category of non-metallic materials, which includes household garbage. The data were presented by Eurostat for the year 2021 and are calculated in tonnes per person, by resource category, which also includes biomass, metal ores and fossil-based materials.
Domestic material consumption by main material category, 2021 (tonnes per person)
For reference, we mention that last year the consumption of non-metallic materials varied at European level between about 2 tonnes/person in the Netherlands and 23 tonnes/person in Romania, while the EU average was about 7.5 tonnes/person, which is three times lower than in our country. The report points out that the huge differences in the field are caused by various factors, from the level of investment in construction and population density to the size and quality of the transport infrastructure.
In 2021, the average domestic consumption at Union level was 14.1 tonnes/person, up by 4% compared to the previous year (13.6 tonnes/person) after a slow but systematic downward trajectory since the beginning of the millennium (15.4 tonnes/person in 2001). In addition to non-metallic materials, which accounted for 53% of the total, biomass (23%), fossil energy-based materials (18%) and metallic materials (6%) were also included the calculation.
Biomass consumption ranged from around 1 tonne/person in Malta to 8 tonnes/person in Ireland. Economies with high biomass consumption specialize in timber production, such as Finland, or animal husbandry, such as Ireland and Denmark. As regards fossil-energy materials (fuels, etc.), consumption was between 1 tonnes/person in Latvia and 8 tonnes/person in Luxembourg (however at the confluence of larger states).
Change in material consumption depending on GDP growth in EU countries, 2000-2021
More important, however, is the productivity obtained on the basis of the resources used. Enlightening is the situation resulting from the reporting of GDP per capita in ppp to domestic material consumption (abbreviated DMC in English) per capita and positioning it as a national index in the European context. The data collected last year shows that we have a level of capitalization of resources of only 0.8 euros/kg at the parity of purchasing power standard, just like Bulgaria and only the higher GDP saves us from the "dunce cap" in the field (Romania’s index is 35.5% of the EU average compared to 34.7% in the case of our neighbors south of the Danube).
Resource productivity in EU countries, 2021
We are below Estonia (index 41.8%) and at a great distance from Poland (61%), Hungary (70%), Slovakia (81%) or the Czech Republic (83.1%). We are very far from the champion Netherlands (249.8%), which took a notable lead over countries such as Luxembourg (157.5%), Italy (150.2%), Ireland (139%), France (136.3%) or Spain (130%), with the observation that the European locomotive Germany does not excel in the field (118.5%).
All in all, the bad news is that we have developed extensively and we run the risk of not being able to sustain the consumption of resources at a time when we do not reduce the annual growth rate clearly below that of GDP. The good news is that, being in such a position, we have greater possibilities to move to a type of development focused on the qualitative transformation of the economy and we have important reserves to increase the capitalization of the materials and raw materials that we have.