Conventional economics dominate the production and use of the key bulk materials – steel, cement, plastic, paper and aluminium. These energy intensive materials are produced in tremendous volumes – the mass of steel produced globally each year is three times greater than the mass of the world population. Furthermore, they are produced with extraordinary efficiency.
As a result, in the UK, materials are significantly cheaper than the cost of human resources. For examples, one tonne of steel costs around the same as one day of a design engineer’s time. Thus, we tend to use far more material than necessary to produce final goods – where possible, we use extra material if it can save labour. For example, we have good evidence that half of all the sheet metal made each year globally is scrapped along the supply chain of production.