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Are exports of recyclables from developed to developing countries waste pollution transfer or part of the global circular economy?

Liu, Zhe, Adams, Michelle, Walker, Tony R.
Resources, conservation, and recycling 2018 v.136 pp. 22-23
circular economy, cost effectiveness, developed countries, developing countries, environmental law, exports, human resources, manufacturing, plastics, pollution, producer responsibility, recycling, research and development, risk, wastes, Canada, China
CE has benefitted the global economy for years, including China. For example, developed countries benefitted from cost savings associated with exporting waste to China where there were less stringent Chinese environmental laws, but developed countries failed to incorporate true environmental costs. China also benefitted by importing recyclable waste to supplement its domestic manufacturing industries, yet imported plastic waste was considered inferior, and often unusable (i.e., generating more waste), compared to domestic waste by China’s manufacturing industries. In future, the key will be to establish fair-trading systems for waste reutilization across countries globally to reduce waste generation. Firstly, we argue that to reduce waste generation in developed countries, reduced consumption is imperative, since current per capita waste generation in developed countries is much higher than in developing countries. Developed countries, like Canada, need to adopt zero plastic waste strategies by reducing and recycling single-use plastics (Walker and Xanthos, 2018). Secondly, developed countries need to help developing countries deal with their environmental issues, caused by waste reutilization, by transferring waste management and recycling technologies, investing in R&D and training local employees to mitigate potential environmental risks. Thirdly, from a global perspective, implementing extended producer responsibility (EPR) systems across developed and developing countries to help reshape and rebalance the global CE should be undertaken.