Circular economy: Lessons from China

March 30, 2016
In 2013, the State Council released a national strategy for achieving a circular economy — the first such strategy in the world. Further targets for 2015 included increasing energy productivity (GDP per unit energy) by 18.5% relative to 2010, raising water productivity by 43%

This article is written by John A. Mathews& Hao Tan in March. China's consumption of the world's resources is reaching crisis levels. To produce 46% of global aluminium, 50% of steel and 60% of the world's cement1 in 2011, it consumed more raw materials than the 34 countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) combined: 25.2 billion tonnes. In 2025, China is expected to produce almost one-quarter of the world's municipal solid waste.

The country is taking action. For the past decade, China has led the world in promoting the recirculation of waste materials through setting targets and adopting policies, financial measures and legislation. The ultimate goal is a 'circular economy' — closing industrial loops to turn outputs from one manufacturer into inputs for another. This approach reduces the consumption of virgin materials and the generation of waste.For example, the Suzhou New District is a 52-square-kilometre region for technological and industrial development near Shanghai, where around 4,000 manufacturing firms operate. There, manufacturers of printed circuit boards use copper that is recovered from waste from elsewhere in the park, rather than using virgin copper produced by mining firms.

In 2005, China's State Council issued a policy paper. recognizing the economic and environmental risks of the nation's heavy resource exploitation, and acknowledging the circular economy as the principal means of dealing with them. The country's planning agency, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) and bodies such as the Ministry of Environmental Protection have since developed circular-economy principles and promoted exemplars of industrial symbiosis, such as at the Rizhao Economic and Technology Development Zone. Circular economy: Getting the circulation going Taxation, fiscal, pricing and industrial policies were introduced. A fund was allocated to support the conversion of industrial parks into eco-industrial agglomerations.

In 2013, the State Council released a national strategy for achieving a circular economy — the first such strategy in the world. Further targets for 2015 included increasing energy productivity (GDP per unit energy) by 18.5% relative to 2010, raising water productivity by 43%, and for the output of the recycling industry to reach 1.8 trillion yuan (US$276 billion) compared with 1 trillion yuan in 2010. for more reading: http://www.nature.com/news/circular-economy-lessons-from-china-1.19593