Policy ForumENVIRONMENT AND DEVELOPMENT

Measuring China's Circular Economy

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Science  29 Mar 2013:
Vol. 339, Issue 6127, pp. 1526-1527
DOI: 10.1126/science.1227059

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  • RE: Measuring China's Circular Economy -China’s ban is all not doom for global recycling industries
    • Zhe Liu, Researcher, School for Resource and Environmental Studies, Dalhousie University, Canada
    • Other Contributors:
      • Tony R Walker, Assistant Professor, School for Resource and Environmental Studies, Dalhousie University, Canada

    In July 2017, the Chinese government announced an import ban of 24 categories of recyclables and solid waste, including plastic, textiles and mixed paper (1, 2). Undoubtedly, this ban will place tremendous impact on countries globally, especially European countries where 87% of recycled plastic was exported directly or indirectly to China (3). Other countries like the United States and Japan, will also be affected by this ban. Last year, the United States exported 1.42 million tons of scrap plastics, worth an estimated $495 million USD to China (4). Western countries are now pursuing strategies, such as internal recycling incineration, landfilling or issuing single-use plastic bans (5).
    For many years, China has been the largest global importer of recyclable materials to supply China’s global manufacturing base (3). This circular economy has benefitted the world for years, including China (6). For instance, imported plastic waste was considered superior, compared to domestic waste, by China’s manufacturing industries, and helped supplement resource deficiencies in China; balancing trade and increasing job opportunities (7). China is currently transitioning from traditional manufacturing to a green high-tech economy, following recent rapid economic growth (8). China’s move towards developing its domestic recycling industries and increased environmental awareness are also causal factors (9, 10).
    However, the international community does not need to over...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.
  • RE: Measuring China's Circular Economy - Integrating Biodiversity Offsets
    • Mustafa Ali, Postdoctoral researcher, School of Environmental Science and Engineering, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Shanghai 200240
    • Other Contributors:
      • Christina M. Kennedy, Senior Scientist, Global Lands Program, The Nature Conservancy, Fort Collins, CO 80524, USA
      • Joe Kiesecker, Lead Scientist & Director, Development by Design, Global Lands Program, The Nature Conservancy, Fort Collins, CO 80524, USA
      • Yong Geng, Dean & Distinguished Professor, School of Environmental Science and Engineering, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Shanghai 200240.

    Despite the progressive nature of Circular Economy (CE) as a leading sustainability policy in China, as described in Geng et al. (2013), its focus on user-oriented resource consumption has been criticized for disregarding nature-oriented conservation measures; thereby leading officials to pay less heed to the protection of local ecosystems (1). Given that China has lost 90% of its grasslands and 11.5% of its wetlands in the last few decades (2), for CE to be effective in the long-term, an additional mechanism is needed to address the currently unaccounted for impacts on natural habitats and their associated biodiversity and ecosystem services.
    Similar to the three R’s of reduction, reutilization and recycling espoused by CE, the mitigation hierarchy of avoid, minimize, restore and offset offers a complementary mechanism to reduce environmental impacts and remediation of developmental projects (3). The first step in this hierarchy is the avoidance of creating impacts at the outset of any development activity, via measures like the careful spatial or temporal placement of infrastructure. In minimization, measures are taken to reduce the duration, intensity, and/or extent of impacts that cannot be completely avoided. In restoration, post-hoc measures are taken to rehabilitate and/or restore degraded ecosystems. To offset any residual impacts, compensatory measures in the form of positive interventions, such as the restoration of degraded habitats or their arrested degra...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.

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