Sharp drop could be sign that ‘peak stuff’ ceiling has been hit

Figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) to Building show the UK’s global material footprint fell by almost exactly a third between 2001 and 2013.

The data, which excludes fossil fuels, includes imports and exports as well as domestic materials with the numbers coming from the British geological survey, as well as information from HM Revenue and Customs on imports and exports.

The figures come as the concept of “peak stuff” - the phrase coined to describe the trend where the amount of “stuff” used in the UK such as food, fuel, metals and building materials reaches a ceiling and begins to fall - enters mainstream language.

The ONS figures for construction-related categories, including materials such as sand and gravel, show that the amount used has fallen by 35%, from 298 million tonnes in 2000, to 193 million tonnes in 2013, the latest year for which it has data.

In 2000, 266kg of materials were used for every £100 spent on a building site but by 2013 that had fallen 38% to just 164kg.