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The rapidly growing demand for specific finite resources, particularly phosphorus, sand and rare metals, could soon bring about supply bottlenecks.
Phosphorus is critical as a fertilizer, currently retrieved from concentrated natural mineral deposits expected to be depleted soon. The intensification of agriculture is accelerating already emergent supply short ages. Since 2002, fertilizer consumption per hectare of arable land has increased by 20 %. Thus, establishing recycling systems and identifying alternative sources is critical.
Despite being a common material, it is feared that supply of high-quality sand (suitable for construction) will not keep up with future demand. The construction industry is expected to grow 85% by 2030. New, more efficient recycling techniques, as well as substitutes, are needed.
Rare metals (e.g. antimony) might also run short in the next decades. Supply bottlenecks can slow down advances of renewable energy and electronics making substitutes necessary.
Certain animal species that are crucial for the ecosystems are being endangered by pollution and harmful substances. Since 2006, loss rates of honey bee colonies in the U.S. have doubled. A further decrease could have devastating effects on cropyields. New protection measures could stabilize populations. Otherwise, artificial pollination is needed, with some methods already tested. FUTURE FACT Supposing that current phosphorous production rates (191 mn tons per year) remain constant, the production of high-grade, easily-acquirable phosphate rock reserves will peak before the year 2040 and decline afterwards.