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UNFC anthropogenic resources specifications open for public comment

Published: 14 August 2017

UNECE has issued the draft specifications for the application of the United Nations Framework Classification for Resources (UNFC) to Anthropogenic Resources for public comment on 14 August until 12 October 2017. 

Production of energy and mineral resources are usually accompanied by the generation of significant quantities of residues and wastes, which could be designated as anthropogenic (manmade) resources. Many valuable materials could be profitably recovered from anthropogenic resources, thus substantially reducing the waste burden as well as providing additional energy or raw materials for various uses. In many instances, anthropogenic resources could be entirely recycled and the objective of “zero waste” could be achieved. Apart from reduction of the waste burden, these activities generate an economic return, create new jobs and free up valuable land used to store the wastes for productive purposes. 

Sustainable Development Goal #12 calls for a substantial reduction of waste generation through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse by 2030.  Meeting this target requires sustainable resource management with a system perspective that incorporates primary and secondary raw materials and considers all socio-economic and environmental impacts. Regulations in many jurisdictions make a material designated as “waste” very difficult to be used for any other purpose. Hence, the waste hierarchy principles adopted by many countries relegate waste disposal as the last and least preferred of all options.

Classification and management of anthropogenic resources is currently not addressed by international standards. International policy setting, Government resource management, industry business process management and capital allocation require a common and comprehensive understanding for assessing the availability of resources from both natural and anthropogenic sources. Significant progress has been made to broaden the application of UNFC to encompass anthropogenic resources.

UNFC provides a robust framework for compiling and communicating knowledge on quantities on anthropogenic resources. The draft specifications now developed represent ‘rules of application’ of UNFC to anthropogenic resources, intended to assess the secondary raw material volumes based on the maturity level of recovery projects.

The draft specifications for Anthropogenic Resources were developed by a team of international experts with the support of the pan-European expert network on “Mining the European Anthroposphere” (MINEA). “Wastes now represent the single largest challenge to energy and mineral projects worldwide”, said Professor Soraya Heuss-Aßbichler, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität and the team leader of the MINEA Working Group. “Utilization of these wastes as valuable resources is an opportunity not only for economic gains, but could also generate considerable social and environmental benefits”.

“Labelling material as waste without a proper understanding of the recycle and reuse opportunity is a limiting activity in itself”, added Dr Ulrich Kral, Vienna University of Technology and Chair of the Anthropogenic Resources Working Group of the UNECE Expert Group on Resource Classification (EGRC). “UNFC Anthropogenic Resource Specifications provide the direction for assessing such materials for reuse rather than disposing of them as wastes”.

Through this public comment, the views of all stakeholders are being sought to ensure the development of robust specifications that could be used alike by governments, regulators, industry and financiers. Based on the comments received in the consultation, the Draft Specifications will be updated and presented to the EGRC 9th Session in April 2018.

The Draft Specifications are available for public comment on the UNECE website at: http://www.unece.org/energy/se/reserves.html.

For further information, please contact: Hari Tulsidas, UNECE Sustainable Energy Division at: reserves.energy@unece.org

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