Environmentally Friendly Industries

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    Which industries are the most environmentally friendly in 2022?

    As most of us are aware, the world is in a state of environmental peril, with global warming changing the earth’s climate and threatening many species with extinction. Additionally, the huge levels of pollution created by humans is not only threatening the natural world, but is making the planet much less hospitable for human life.

    However, as the alarming state of our planet continues to deteriorate, more people than ever are waking up to the need for change. Industries are developing clean green technologies that will replace our existing, polluting old tech, while governments around the world are committing to limit CO2 emissions and in some cases banning some of the most polluting tech, such as the impending ban on petrol and diesel cars in the UK.

    There is also much that the individual can do to minimise their impact on the earth’s climate, such as switching to energy-efficient technology, recycling, eating less meat, and choosing renewable energy suppliers. When people change their habits to adopt new ways of living, companies and governments will follow suit to earn their custom and their vote, which empowers individuals to make real change happen by their actions.

    We have conducted a study to find out how much non-renewable energy is still being used in the UK, and by whom. We also take a look at the amount of waste generated in this country and abroad, identifying the biggest polluters across multiple industries.

    Energy consumption in the UK

    The first half of our study focuses on non-renewable energy consumption in the UK. We’ve used official statistics to find out which energy sources outside of renewable energy are used to produce the most energy.

    Energy use by fuel source

    Energy use by fuel source

    Here you can see a breakdown of the various non-renewable energy sources used in the UK, as well as how much energy was generated from each of these in 2019.

    1. Natural Gas                                        Total Energy Used (MWh): 860 Million

    Natural gas is the non-renewable fuel source that generates by far the most energy in the UK, and in 2019 alone was responsible for producing 860 million MWh. Natural gas has many uses, providing for more than 84% of the UK’s heating needs and accounting for 40% of our electricity generation, while also being key to the manufacturing and petrochemical industries.

    2. DERV                                                  Total Energy Used (MWh): 296 Million

    The second most common energy source in the UK is DERV, which stands for “Diesel Engine Road Vehicle”, and refers to diesel fuel which is used to power vehicles on the road. In 2019, DERV was used to generate a huge 296 million MWh of power.

    3. Aviation Turbine Fuel                       Total Energy Used (MWh): 176 Million

    The third most commonly used non-renewable fuel in the UK is aviation turbine fuel, colloquially known as jet fuel, which is used to power gas-turbine engines in aircraft. In 2019 the UK used this fuel to generate 176 million MWh of power.

    Energy consumption across UK businesses

    The sectors that use the most non-renewable energy

    This section allows us to see which sectors in the UK consume the most energy generated from non-renewable sources.

    Sectors that use the most non renewable energy

    1. Travel                                                 Total Energy Used (MWh): 510.91 Million

    Consumer travel used the most energy of any sector in 2019, getting through a staggering 510.91 million MWh. This figure accounts for buses, planes, trains and road vehicles, so the scope is pretty wide.

    2. Consumer Products & Services     Total Energy Used (MWh): 401.70 Million

    Consumer products and services accounted for the second largest share of energy at 401.70 million MWh. This refers to a very wide range of things including furniture, clothing and tobacco products.

    3. Energy                                                Total Energy Used (MWh): 267.26 Million

    The energy sector itself used the third highest amount of non-renewable energy sources in 2019, at 267.26 million MWh. This figure refers to the amount of energy generated from the volume of fuel used, so it includes both energy production and separate industrial usage.

    The sectors that are reducing their non-renewable energy consumption

    Here we can see which industries and sectors are making the most progress in reducing their reliance on non-renewable power. By looking at the most recent available data from 2019 and comparing it to 2015 data, we have calculated the percent change in non-renewable energy use for each sector.

    Reducing non renewable energy

    1. Energy                                                                        Percent change: -33.16%       

    Despite being the third highest user of non-renewable energy in 2019, the energy sector is also the most-improved when comparing the most recent data with 2015 figures. A 33.16% decrease in four years is an impressive feat, and is testament to the UK’s efforts to decarbonise energy production in the country.

    2. Manufacturing                                                           Percent change: -26.29%

    Manufacturing includes the production of all sorts of machinery, vehicles, equipment and products for industrial use. This sector has also seen a huge drop in the amount of energy consumed from non-renewable sources, with a 26.29% decrease from 2015.

    3. Repair and Refurbishment                                       Percent change: -8.14%

    The third highest reduction in non-renewable energy usage was seen in the repair and refurbishment sector, which includes a variety of maintenance industries. While the reduction is more moderate than the top two sectors, at 8.14%, this still equates to a substantial improvement in a sector that already prevents waste by ensuring machines and vehicles last for a longer period of time before being replaced.

    The sectors using the least non-renewable energy

    Here we can see which sectors recorded the smallest use of non-renewable energy. However, it is important to note that these industries could well be using the least energy due to incomplete data.

    Least non renewable energy

    1. Finance                                               Total Energy Used (MWh): 0.93 Million

    The finance sector used the least non-renewable energy, recording just 0.93 million MWh being used in 2019.

    2. Entertainment & Recreation            Total Energy Used (MWh): 6.82 Million

    Entertainment and recreation, which includes a wide range of industries such as movie theatres and publishing, saw the second-lowest use of non-renewable energy at 6.82 million MWh.

    3. Defence and Security Services       Total Energy Used (MWh): 8.26 Million

    This category includes public defence services as well as security and investigation services. This sector used the third least amount of non-renewable energy in 2019 at 8.26 million MWh.

    Waste in the UK

    We’ve seen how much power the UK gets through, but using energy isn’t the only way we pollute the environment. In the UK we create millions of tonnes of waste every year, but where does it come from, and where does it go?

    Industrial waste

    Here we can see how much industrial waste is produced in the UK across some of the country’s biggest and most wasteful industries.

    Industrial Waste

    1. Construction                                                  Tonnes of Waste: 137.74 Million

    Construction is by far the most wasteful industry in the UK, generating a colossal 137.74 million tonnes of waste in a single year. This far outstrips any other industry, and suggests that actions need to be taken to make the industry more sustainable and much less wasteful.

    Household waste

    We’ve also taken a look at the UK’s record on household waste. We’ve found out how much waste we throw out at home each year, as well as what proportion of that gets recycled.

    Household Waste

    In 2019 we threw out 26.44 million tonnes of household waste, though this is actually less than we threw out in 2015, if only by a small difference of 0.88%. This is significant as the population of the UK has not stopped growing, so either we are becoming more environmentally aware and are throwing less out, or our products are being sold in less packaging than they used to be, resulting in lower household waste.

    Another piece of good news is that the recycling rate has risen since 2015, when it stood at 44.50%, having reached 46.20% in 2019. This suggests that consumers are making more of an effort to properly recycle packaging and waste products, rather than sending them straight to landfill.

    A world of waste

    A large factor in determining how polluting an industry is is the amount of waste it produces. While this waste should be treated and disposed of in a responsible manner, if not recycled and reused, it often finds its way into landfill, rivers and oceans, further polluting the natural environment.

    Our study looks at waste levels across a variety of different industries in over 20 different countries. This will reveal which activities and which countries are responsible for the most waste. In order to make large and small countries comparable, we have ranked them according to the number of tonnes of waste per 100,000 people.

     

    The countries that produce the most overall waste per head

    Before splitting our data by industry, we wanted to see which countries have the highest overall levels of waste. The top 10 countries in our study can be seen below.

    Overall Waste

    1. Finland                                               Tonnes of waste per 100,000: 2.29 million

    Finland produces the highest amount of waste per 100,000 people of any country in our study at 2.29 million tonnes. This Nordic country is followed by neighbouring Estonia, which took second place with 1.72 million tonnes of waste per 100,000 people. Luxembourg took third place with 1.41 million tonnes of waste per 100,000.

    The countries that produce the most agricultural waste per head

    Agriculture is a vital industry that forms the backbone of many nations’ economies. However, due to different agricultural techniques, standards, and regional difficulties, waste production can vary massively from country to country. While agriculture is necessary to keep people fed, some intensive forms of agriculture can be very damaging to the environment and can completely destroy natural ecosystems.

    Agricultural Waste

    1. Netherlands                                       Tonnes of waste per 100,000: 26,826

    The Netherlands produces the most waste from agriculture, forestry and fishing waste of any country in our study. In a single year, the Netherlands was responsible for approximately 4.68 million tonnes of agricultural waste, which equates to 28,826 tonnes per 100,000 people.

    This is more than double the per capita agricultural waste produced in second place Spain, which saw 132,007 tonnes for every 100,000 people.

    The countries that produce the most waste from mining and quarrying per head

    Mining and quarrying is necessary for all sorts of other industries such as construction,  technology and anything that requires metals or rare elements. However, while we have a huge range of uses for mined materials, mining also produces a huge amount of waste and can be an incredibly destructive process.

    Here we can see which countries produce the most waste from mining and quarrying relative to their population sizes.

    Mining and Quarrying

    1. Finland                                               Tonnes of waste per 100,000: 1.74 million

    Finland takes the top spot as the biggest per capita producer of mining and quarrying waste in our study, with 1.74 million tonnes of waste for every 100,000 people. It is followed in second and third place by two of its neighbours, Sweden and Estonia, indicating that the region is particularly rich in mineral resources.

    The countries that produce the most wastewater and sewage per head

    Wastewater and sewage is an unavoidable part of human civilisation, but it does mean that vast quantities of waste need to be treated and appropriately disposed of. However, wastewater often gets released into rivers and the sea where it pollutes the waters and kills local wildlife, which in turn has a knock-on effect on the food chain.

    Wastewater and sewage

    1. Finland                                               Tonnes of waste per 100,000: 41,658

    Finland produces by far the most wastewater per capita of any country in our study, with 41,658 tonnes per 100,000 people. This more than doubled that of second place South Korea, which produced 17,291 tonnes per 100,000 people.

    The countries that produce the most construction waste per head

    Construction is an industry that requires a huge amount of raw materials, though it often results in a lot of waste also being generated. As the global population continues to grow, finding more economical methods of construction will be key to reducing global waste volumes.

    Construction Waste

    1. Luxembourg                                      Tonnes of waste per 100,000: 1.16 million

    The top country for construction waste per head is Luxembourg, which produced 1.16 million tonnes of waste for every 100,000 people. This is approximately double the rate of second place Netherlands, which is probably due to Luxembourg being a very small country, with the vast majority of the population living in Luxembourg city.

    The countries that produce the most waste from manufacturing per head

    Manufacturing is required to produce all manner of products, from machinery and vehicles to packaging and electronics. This broad sector produces a lot of waste, though as much of it is retained and recycled as possible.

    Manufacturing Waste

    1. Estonia                                                           Tonnes of waste per 100,000: 328,038

    Estonia has the highest rate of manufacturing waste per head at 328,038 tonnes per 100,000 people. This is more than double that of second place Finland, which recorded a rate of 152,384 tonnes of waste per 100,000.

    Methodology

    We wanted to find out which industries are the best and worst for the environment. To do this we used ONS data on the amount of energy used by different industries, from which we also calculated the total amount of energy used from different sources, as well as the industries that have reduced their use of non-renewable energy the most since 2015. The most recent energy data was for 2019, so we used these figures to form the basis of our investigation.

    We also used OECD data to investigate the amount of waste produced by different industries in a selection of OECD countries. The data shown is from 2018, which is the most recent complete dataset available. Data for UK household waste was taken from a 2021 DEFRA report.

    Information from United Kingdom Onshore Oil and Gas (UKOOG) was used to provide extra information on the use of natural gas, while World Bank data was used to find the populations in different countries.

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