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Time to ward off a coming raw materials famine

22 August 2012

UK manufacturers are getting jittery about the increasing rarity and cost of essential raw materials.

They have called upon the government to strengthen its strategy to secure supply and circulation of essential raw materials for the benefit of the economy.

A joint letter to the government from the Material Security Working Group, which includes organisations as diverse as the Engineering Employers' Federation (EEF) and Friends of the Earth, warns that if the UK doesn’t develop a stronger strategy to keep valuable raw materials circulating within the economy there will be significant consequences for UK industry. It wants to see the Government’s Resource Security Action Plan, published in March, to be strengthened and its ambitions raised.

The group says that increasing global demand, coupled with rapidly degrading ecosystems, is already putting pressure on supplies of some raw materials, with prices rising steeply in recent years. Though there have been recent fluctuations in commodity prices, they are projected to escalate as three billion people join the global middle classes, putting pressure on already fragile and depleted ecosystems.

An EEF survey published earlier this year, found that 80 percent of senior manufacturing executives considered limited access to raw materials was already a business risk and a threat to growth. For one in three companies it was their top risk. [Note: you will need to log your details in order to read this report, the executive summary of which and Chart 6 on  page 8, are apposite to this story].

The group proposes a three-pronged approach: the establishment of an 'Office for Resource Management' to deal more consistently with the crisis consistently; the setting up of a task force to review existing targets and recommend policy changes to improve recycling; and a ban preventing recyclable materials being sent to 'energy from waste' plants and landfills unless there is an environmental and economic case for doing so.

Friends of the Earth resource campaigner Julian Kirby points out that the UK buries and burns at least £650m worth a year of valuable materials. He asks the Prime Minister to address what he and Material Security Working Group members claim is a totally incoherent approach to resource security by his government, and waste no further time in setting up the Office for Resource Management.

Century old Olympic 'hoard’ is discovered
With Olympic fever still in the air and the Paralympics about to start, it is not surprising that the discovery of a 100 year-old Olympic 'hoard’ has sparked a lot of interest in the West Midlands, where it was ‘unearthed’.

Featuring memorabilia from the 1912 Olympic Games, the ‘hoard’ is currently on display at Birmingham City University, where discoverer, Claire Edwards works as a member of the university's marketing team. And her discovery? A medal, an official scroll, sepia photographs and the original ‘Team GB’ uniform, which was hidden at the back of a family wardrobe!

Claire’s great-grandfather Robert Murray was part of the 38-strong British shooting team which took part in the Games of the Fifth Olympiad - the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm - where he competed in three small-bore rifle shooting events, winning gold and silver medals. His Olympic Collection is currently on temporary display at the University’s School of Jewellery at Vittoria Street in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter.

It’s an exciting discovery for Claire and a proud moment for her family. “We knew about the medals and the scroll but the jacket was a completely new find, which I found in a plastic bag at the bottom of my granddad’s wardrobe,” she said. As well as Claire’s family, the rare find has also excited her academic colleagues at Birmingham City University.

Paul Glennon, Associate Dean of the University’s Birmingham Institute of Art and Design, believes fashion tutors and students will be very interested to discover how the double-breasted tunic was designed and constructed a hundred years ago. “Even the design of the 1912 logo on the breast pocket is fascinating when compared to the modern 2012 Team GB design,” he said. And technologists from the University’s School of Jewellery have examined the 1912 medal to see how it, too, was constructed.

Watch the video report about the find here.

Les Hunt

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