A new diagram displays the use of materials as sculptures of people

24 Nov 2011

Cambridge University has released a diagram that illustrates the consumption of raw materials by people in the UK. This chart does not use bars or pies however, it uses people. Dr Julian Allwood, Leader of the Low Carbon Materials Processing Group at Cambridge University, and his team have used the number of people that could be sculpted from a material to demonstrate how much we all use each year.

The amount of cement used per person in the UK could be sculpted into 13 people, while the paper we each use could be made into four adults. Surprisingly the volume of metals such as steel or aluminium consumed annually could only produce one adult and one child, or one child, respectively.

This is due more to density than to their rate of consumption. The weight of steel used annually per head is three times that of paper in the UK, but it could be sculpted into fewer people. Plastic, though consumed at a rate six times slower than steel, could be made into the same number of sculptures.

This adds up to an impressive material family and puts into perspective the huge volume of raw materials people use every year in the UK, demonstrating how important materials science is to everyone.

Further information

The diagram and BBC News article

Dr Allwood and team’s book on sustainable materials

A Materials KTN report on materials scarcity can be downloaded from this page