The Circular (Recycling) Economy in China
Definition of Circular Economy
There are a number of ways to define the term Circular Economy (CE). The accepted working definition may be interlinked manufacturing and service businesses seeking the enhancement of economy and environmental performance through collaboration in managing environmental and resource issues. The theme of the CE concept is the exchange of materials where one facility’s waste, including energy, water, materials - as well as information - is another facility’s input. By working together, the community of businesses seeks a collective benefit that is larger than the sum of the individual benefits each enterprise, industry and community would realize if it intended to optimize its performance on an individual basis (i.e. industrial symbiosis).
The Circular Economy in China
The 16th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, held in November 2002, pledged an ambitious blueprint for China’s development in the next twenty years, i.e. to realize an overall well-off (shao kong) society by the year 2020. This society system is defined as to quadruple the country’s GDP, and to enhance social equality and environmental protection as well. The pursuit of a new industrialization model becomes China’s only pathway in reconciling and linking these dual endeavors to sustain high-speed economic growth and to reverse environmental degradation. The characteristics of such industrialization will be focused on featuring the high-technology products, good economic returns, low natural resource consumption and environmental pollution, and efficient deployment of manpower.
Development based on the circular economy will be essential for China to reach an overall well-off society by sustaining fast-paced economic growth while mitigating negative ecological impact and creating more job opportunities.
In less than three years, the concept of ecological industrial parks (EIP) and CE was introduced into China and started to flourish. While more and more government officials and enterprise estate managers talk frequently on the subject, what is unfortunately lacking is the theoretical framework, the practical tools and the experts who can disseminate the pertinent information so it can be effectively applied.
Another misconception which often persists is that with CE, the practice of Cleaner Production (CP) may be put in the back seat. In fact, CP is the first and most vital step for reaching the ultimate goal of CE, especially for industrial sectors. Without the implementation of CP, CE remains in the stage of conceptual framework. For CE to prosper in China, it must not become merely the patent of the environmental community. Its acceptance and application by economic policymakers, urban planners, and industrial managers will be the decisive factor through capacity strengthening.