Why is air called a renewable resource

raw materials are natural resources that have not yet been processed apart from the solution from their natural source. Due to their practical value, they are extracted from nature and either consumed directly or used as work equipment and raw materials for further processing stages in production.


There are different systems for the classification of raw materials. Frequently used criteria for the systematic classification are their natural properties, the degree of regenerability, the origin and the intended use.

Natural properties

A distinction is made between organic and inorganic raw materials according to their natural properties. Organic raw materials come from living nature. They include plant and animal substances including microorganisms. The source of inorganic raw materials are resources of inanimate nature including water and air.


According to the degree of regenerability, the raw materials are divided into renewable and non-renewable. Renewable are renewable raw materials from the animal and plant kingdom, but also inorganic substances such as water, air and sun. Mineral and fossil raw materials that have formed over geological or astronomical periods are not considered to be renewable through human influence.


Raw materials come from different areas of the geosphere. Plant and animal substances are extracted from the biosphere, water and fish from the hydrosphere, oxygen from the atmosphere, and mineral raw materials from the lithosphere. Places on the earth's surface where raw materials have accumulated in a mineable form are called deposits. The ability to mine is determined by factors such as the quantity, quality or location of the raw material. Waste products that are reprocessed through recycling and re-enter the production cycle are what are known as secondary raw materials.

Extraction and use

A distinction is made between agricultural and industrial raw materials according to the way they are obtained and their intended use.

Agricultural raw materials are supplied by agriculture, forestry and fishing. They can be of animal or vegetable origin. Raw materials such as grain, meat, fish and organic oils are processed into food, luxury goods and animal feed. Organic waste can be used as a raw material for biogas production.

Agricultural products that serve as basic materials for technical purposes, such as wood, rubber, cotton, industrial fruit, medicinal plants or rapeseed, are referred to as industrial vegetable raw materials.

Industrial raw materials from inorganic and fossil resources are mainly extracted as mineral resources in mining. They are divided into four groups:

  • Energy resources are used to generate energy. They include fossil raw materials such as coal, crude oil and natural gas, air, water and sun as the basis for renewable energy and uranium as a raw material for generating nuclear energy.
  • Chemical raw materials such as lime or salt are processed further in the chemical industry.
  • Metal raw materials are extracted from ores. Iron, aluminum and steel as a product of iron and steel refiners form the basic raw materials in mechanical engineering, shipbuilding and automobile construction. Precious metals such as gold, silver or platinum are not only crucial for the jewelry industry, but together with copper, tin and semiconductors form the basis of the electrical industry and electronics.
  • Construction and ceramic raw materials are basic materials in the construction industry. They are obtained from rocks or sediments. Important building materials are sand, gravel, clay mineral, kaolin and stone.


Raw materials were extracted, used and traded by humans from the beginning of their existence. Entire epochs of prehistory and early history such as the Stone Age, the Bronze Age or the Iron Age are named after individual raw materials.

In modern times, the demand and demands on raw materials have been increasing steadily since the beginning of the industrial revolution. With increasing knowledge in geology, chemistry and materials engineering, more and more raw materials and raw material deposits were discovered and new uses were invented.

World trade and politics

Raw materials represent more than a third of all goods in world trade. Global trade is carried out via organized commodity futures exchanges. Exchanges of global importance include the Chicago Mercantile Exchange for agricultural products, the New York Mercantile Exchange for metals and oil and the London Metal Exchange for metals. The pricing is influenced by oligopoly-like market structures. Many raw materials can only be obtained with considerable investment. In particular, the exploitation of mineral and fossil materials is often concentrated in a few multinational corporations.

The cultivation, extraction and processing of raw materials often take place in different countries. In recent years, rapidly growing tiger states such as India, Brazil and China have increasingly appeared as buyers of raw materials. In particular, the demand for iron ore is increasing from these countries. [1] The contrast between exporting and importing countries, which had developed since the beginning of the 20th century, made the trade in raw materials an object of national political interests. The basics of an international raw materials policy were laid down in 1927 at the World Economic Conference in Geneva.

The conflicts that arise from private-sector and national interests, especially the often conflicting interests of industrialized and developing countries, and the need for global agreements that take into account the increasing demand for raw materials on the one hand and environmental protection and resource conservation on the other, have led to a series of international agreements and organizations. The most important of them are UNCTAD, representing the interests of developing countries, the World Trade Organization (WTO), the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which regulates the exploitation of marine resources, the Antarctic Treaty and OPEC, the association of petroleum exporting countries.


The exploitation of natural resources for raw material extraction on a large scale leads to environmental problems that can threaten the livelihoods of mankind in the long term. Examples are desertification through large-scale clearing and overgrazing and the destruction of entire ecosystems in open-cast coal mining. Opportunities for resource-saving management such as recycling and the promotion of renewable raw materials are therefore being scientifically investigated and supported by national and international institutions such as the United Nations Environment Program.


No raw material is available indefinitely. The growth of the population and a rising standard of living as well as a careless handling of raw materials in the throwaway society lead to an increasing scarcity of raw materials. This becomes particularly clear in the case of fossil raw materials such as crude oil, which according to the Hubbert curve will only be available in marginal quantities in 2050. Effects can be seen in the already rising prices of raw materials as well as in increasing conflicts over them.

The limited recyclability is also a problem. For example, zinc is gradually dispersed in the finest form on galvanized iron parts due to environmental influences, analogous to platinum, which is released into the environment as a finest powder from car catalytic converters (general increase in entropy). Distributed in this way, both can no longer be sensibly and economically recycled. The high-grade raw material deposits known today have a very limited range of less than 100 years. Theoretically, one way out could be the mining of raw materials in space (moon, asteroids) or the recovery of raw materials from currently uneconomical sources such as seawater.

So far, one can only speculate about the consequences of a global and general shortage of raw materials, but similar effects are expected as during the oil crisis, which resulted in economic stagnation and forced restrictions on the population (e.g. Sunday driving ban).

In the case of a few exotic elements, a shortage is already indicated over a relatively short time horizon. For the metals indium and gallium, for example, global consumption (indium approx. 850 t, for gallium approx. 165 t) already exceeds the annual production volume many times over [2]. Particularly disadvantageous is the very sharp increase in the consumption of indium in the form of indium tin oxide in liquid crystal and OLED screen production, as well as the use of gallium and indium in the production of light-emitting diodes, which are currently used as energy-saving lightbulbs and as background lighting for flat screens are in the market.

In the case of indium, resources are expected to dry up in this decade, as the theoretical indium reserves amount to only 6,000 tons and the economically exploitable reserves to only 2,800 tons. [3].


  • Heiner Barsch, Klaus Bürger: Natural resources of the earth and their use. Justus Perthes Verlag, Gotha 1996, ISBN 3-623-00838-9


  1. Share blog September 7, 2007, http://aktien-blog.com/eisenerz-frachtkosten-insider.html,
  2. USGS Minerals Information
  3. Neue Zürcher Zeitung, December 7, 2005, indium stocks according to USGS Mineral Commodity Summaries (2006)

Category: raw material