New report finds Oxford uses 12,000 tonnes of food, fuel and building materials every day

Published: Thursday, 20th October 2016

Every day Oxford uses enough materials – from fuels and building materials to metals and food – to fill a freight train 1¾ miles long, a new independent report has found.

Oxford City Council commissioned the Material Oxford report, on behalf of the Low Carbon Oxford partnership, to understand which materials the city is dependent on – and better understand the future risks to the city of that dependency.

The aim is to get private, public and third sector organisations to think more about their material consumption, reduce waste and build resilience to stop Oxford’s supply chain suffering from fluctuations in the pound or other geopolitical factors.

It is thought to be the first time a local authority has commissioned an analysis of its area’s material consumption.

The Material Oxford report, produced by 3Keel, found that, if the materials Oxford uses every day were carried in one freight train, the wagons would look as follows:

  • 10 wagons would carry 410 tonnes of food
  • 62 wagons would carry 2,500 tonnes of biomass (fuel, livestock feed, timbers, wood pulp)
  • 125 wagons (stretching a mile) would carry 5,100 tonnes of fossil fuels (oil, coal, gas)
  • 12 wagons would carry 860 tonnes of metal ores
  • 75 wagons (stretching another half a mile) would carry 3000 tonnes of building materials (sand, gravels, cement, bricks)

In total, Oxford consumes 12,000 tonnes of materials every day – enough to fill a train of 284 wagons, which would stretch for 1¾ miles.

The report analysed the use of resources by residents and organisations in Oxford. Not only does the report include the materials used in the city, such as to repair roads or construct buildings, it also includes the city’s share of materials used to build factories in other countries which then produce Oxford’s food, cars or clothes.

On top of this, the report analysed where materials used in Oxford are sourced. This found that overall about 50 per cent of materials are resourced locally, and 50 per cent globally. However, this changes for resources: water and land are local resources, but oil and metals are exclusively sourced globally.

The report recommends that public, private and third sector organisations – including local authorities, universities and industry – work together, take shared responsibility and form joint initiatives to:

  • Use Oxford’s universities to help understand, measure, track, and benchmark the city’s material issues, using the framework in the report as a starting point
  • Introduce a culture of smarter material and resource use for businesses and organisations across the city, so that fewer materials are used overall
  • Create a ‘collaborative economy’, to create better links between sectors and organisations within Oxford, so that they better trade and share resources
  • Bring together funding from private, public and third sector organisations to invest in the collaborative economy and bring about its collective returns

The report will now be taken to Low Carbon Oxford’s pathfinders for further discussion. The pathfinders include some of Oxford’s largest employers, including BMW, both universities, the hospitals, Unipart, and the city and county councils.

Low Carbon Oxford is a network of over 40 organisations – including private, public and not-for-profit sectors – working together to reduce carbon emissions in Oxford by 40 per cent by 2020. It is core funded and coordinated by Oxford City Council.

The report will also help the City Council to inform the development of its new Local Plan. The Local Plan sets out how Oxford will develop – in terms of housing, jobs, leisure facilities and more – over the next 20 years.

The report is available online at: www.lowcarbonoxford.org/reports/material-oxford.

Councillor John Tanner, Executive Board Member for a Clean and Green Oxford, said: “It is astonishing just how dependent Oxford is on bringing in daily supplies of petrol, building materials and food. Low Carbon Oxford will examine this report to see if we can make our city a bit more self-reliant.”