An overview of China's recyclable waste recycling and recommendations for integrated solutions

Shijiang Xiao, Huijuan Dong, Yong Geng, Matthew Brander

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Due to rapid economic growth and population increase, problems of environmental pollution, climate change, and resource depletion have become increasingly serious in China. Recyclable waste recycling (RWR) is becoming one of the key approaches to simultaneously respond to the above issues, and the Chinese government has begun to regulate and promote source separation and urban waste recycling in recent years. However, several barriers still exist, and it is therefore crucial to review China’s RWR system in order to identify these barriers, and propose appropriate solutions. This paper firstly summarizes the current situation for China’s RWR: 1. recycling in 2016 reached 246 million tons (515 billion RMB), with 0.3% increase from the previous year; 2.regulations have been greatly strengthened in recent years, although regulations on specific RW, source separation, and interrelated technology are still lacking; 3. a pilot recycling program at the city level was initiated in 2006, covering 90 cities, 51,550 recycling sites, 341 collection centers, 63 terminal markets, and 123 recycling & processing bases. The paper then identifies several key problems and challenges, including ineffective governance and market construction, inefficient source separation, and the lack of a recycling information platform. In responding to these barriers, a number of solutions are proposed: an integrated RWR framework using a Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) investment model; combining the RWR system with municipal solid waste (MSW) collection system; and using internet technology to establish a comprehensive information platform. The use of internet technology is suggested as a unique and effective way of solving China’s RWR problems.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)112-120
JournalResources, Conservation and Recycling
Early online date22 Mar 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 22 Mar 2018


  • recyclable wastes recycling (RWR)
  • internet+
  • pilot city program
  • regulation and policy
  • integrated framework


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