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Use of materials, energy and water

Environmental resources form the basis for the functioning of man - they are a raw material for the economy and have impact on the quality of life. The extraction and processing resources, using the products, as well as waste recovery or disposal may cause a multi-dimensional pressure on all environmental components. Therefore it is important to manage the resources in sustainable way to make sure that the management process across the whole product life-cycle is least damaging to the environment and gives access to them to the future generations. Sustainable use of resources is a key element of welfare in the long-term dimension.


Priority objective in the area of sustainable use of resources is "to reduce the negative environmental impact generated by the use of  natural resources in a growing economy - a concept referred to as decoupling. In practical terms, this means reducing the environmental impact of resource use while at the same time improving resource productivity overall across economy"

in: "Thematic strategy on sustainable use of natural resources"


Extraction of biomass in Poland, which is a part of domestic extraction (DE), in 2000 was ca 180 million tonnes, and in 2007 - ca 171 million tonnes. Dominant category in biomass extraction involved primary crops, whose share in the total biomass ranged from 49.5% in 2000 to 35.7% in 2007. The share of wood increased from 9.7% in 200 to 13.4% in 2007, and the share of fodder crops increased from 14.5% to 22.7% respectively (Fig. 3.1.)


Fig. 3.1. Domestic biomass extraction in the years 2000-2007 (source: CSO)

Fig. 3.2. Domestic  extraction of minerals in the years 2000-2007 (source: CSO)

In 2007 domestic extraction of minerals, which is the remaining part of domestic extraction apart from biomass, was about 440 million tonnes. Non metallic minerals had the largest share in extraction (60.3% in 2007). Extraction of sand and gravel was dominant in this category. Fossil energy carriers accounted for 33.4% of the domestic minerals extraction, with a dominant share of hard coal (Fig. 3.2.).

Domestic Material Consumption, after a period of fall in the years 2000-2002, was characterized by a growing tendency from 2003 and reached 651 million tonnes in 2007. This value was 68 million tonnes higher than the one from 2000. In 2005 Poland was one of five top EU Member States with the highest DMC (Diagram 3.3.).


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Fig. 3.3. Domestic material consumption  in selected EU countries in 2005 (source: Eurostat)


Material consumption in the economy is measured via material productivity ratio calculated as a relationship between GDP and the domestic material consumption, i.e. the higher the value of this indicator, the less materials are used to generate a GDP unit. According to Eurostat data material productivity ratio for Poland grew from 0.36 to 0.4 in the years 2000-2005, while its average value for all EU Member States grew from 1.23 to 1.3 over the same period.

Value of the ratio in Poland, just like in other new Member States, is significantly lower than the EU-average, which proves that the economy is highly material-consuming. This indicator will be growing together with the change of the economic structure, which leads to a more common use of modern technologies. However, it will be necessary to intensify the activities aimed at sustainable use of raw materials (Fig. 3.4.).


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Fig. 3.4. Resource productivity ratio in the EU in 2005 (GDP/DMC) (source: Eurostat)

The main source of energy in Poland involves non-renewable resources. Dominant primary energy carriers in the Polish economy still include hard coal (46.6% of total use of energy carriers in 2008), although its share in the total use of energy carriers has been falling (a 10% decreased vis-a-vis 1998) (Fig. 3.5).


Fig. 3.5. The structure of primary energy carriers use in domestic economy in the years 1998-2008 (source: CSO)

Total energy use in the domestic economy was falling until 2002, reaching its lowest value in the analysed period, i.e. 89.18 million tonnes oil-equivalent (Mtoe). Use was growing in the following years and in 2008 it was 98.54 Mtoe. Dynamics of the growing trend in energy use in the domestic economy remained much lower than GDP dynamics (Fig. 3.6).


Fig. 3.6. Dynamics of energy use in the Polish domestic economy vis-a-vis GDP in the years 1999-2008 (1999=100) (source: CSO)

In spite of a whole range of activities undertaken to reduce energy-intensity of the economy, Polish economy remains one of the most energy-intensive in the European Union, with its energy-intensity ratio doubling the EU average (Fig. 3.7).


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Fig. 3.7. Energy intensity of  economy of EU Member States in 2007, expressed as ratio of energy use to GDP (source: Eurostat)


Poland has seen a positive trend in the growing share of energy production from renewable sources in the total energy production, as well as in the total energy consumption. In the case of production the share grew from 4.46% in 1999 to 7.24% in 2008. Biomass is the most dominant among all renewable energy sources, accounting for more than 90% of all sources.

The share of energy from renewable resources in electricity generation in Poland is still much lower than the EU average which was 15.5% in 2007 (Fig. 3.8).


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Fig 3.8. Share of energy from renewable resources in electricity generation in the EU in 2007 (source: Eurostat)

Poland is one of the countries in which water resources are scare. They are among the lowest in Europe per capita, which is why their rational management should remain one of the most important domestic priorities.

The basic source of water for the purposes of domestic economy and population involves surface water which account for more than 80% of the total abstraction. Groundwater, as water of a much better quality, is destined as drinking water for the population. In the years 1998-2008 abstraction of waters remained stable (Fig. 3.9.). Stabilization of water abstraction results from rationalization of water management.


Fig. 3.9. Abstraction of water in Poland for the needs of domestic economy and population in the years 1998-2008 by purpose (source: CSO)

Poland is a country with low water consumption in terms of the quantity of water abstraction per inhabitant (Fig. 3.10).

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Fig. 3.10. Water abstraction per inhabitant in m3 in selected EU Member States (source: Eurostat)

Cost optimization related to the functioning of businesses and organizations necessitates savings in the area of raw material and utilities use. One may therefore expect that it is mostly the economic account that will stimulate the limitation of material-, energy- and water-intensity of the economy. This process is supported by the implementation of certified environmental management systems. As at 29 January 2010 there were 19 Polish organizations and 31 objects registered in the Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS). To compare, in Germany (as at 28 October 2009) there were 1390 organizations and 1841 objects registered in EMAS.



Taking care of the natural resources and their sustainable management is a condition for efficient functioning of the economy in the long-term perspective. There is a lot to be done in Poland in this regard. This concerns in particular material- and energy-intensity, which is much above the EU-average. Limited use of raw materials and energy will not only result in reduced costs of economic functioning in the future, but also in reduced pressure on all environmental components. In spite of the fact that recent years have seen a stabilization in the water abstraction, it has to be treated as one of the priorities of the environmental policy. Even more so, as it is expected that water deficit in the country will deepen in the wake of the observed climatic changes.