Non-renewable resource

Posted: 3 November 2000

A natural resource that cannot be replaced after it has been consumed. It applies particularly to fossil fuels, which can only be used once, but it also describes other mineral resources that are present in only fixed quantities in the earth's crust, although metals can be reused through recycling. Central to the concept is human time frame. Oil and natural gas are being formed beneath the earth's surface at present and new mineral ores are also being created. However, replacement may take millions of years, and society can consume them much more rapidly that they can be replaced. Thus in human terms they are effectively non-renewable.