Date: 2022-11-19

Degree: Doctoral Thesis

Programme: Science

Authors: Li, Warren Man Ho

Supervisors: Prof. Franz Gassner, University of Saint Joseph



The global living standard improved significantly in the last decades and China moved 800 million people out of poverty since 1980. However, production and consumption in their current forms are unsustainable in matters of resource and energy use and involved emissions with their significant ecological impact. The global human community committed itself in the COP21 Agreement of Paris 2015 to reduce Green House Gas (GHG) emissions based on National Determined Contributions (NDCs) in order to limit the increase of global average temperature below 2°C or better 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. This commitment entails a comprehensive transformation of the current social and economic system in view of decoupling economic growth from both resource extraction and GHG emissions, in view of fostering a resource sensitive and CO2 neutral Circular Economy (CE) based on Sustainable Development (SD).

China submitted its first INDC in 2015 with policies and measures affecting 15 major areas. In 2020, President Xi Jinping announced the commitment to peak China’s carbon dioxide emissions before 2030 and achieving carbon neutrality before 2060. Proper and Integrated Resource and Waste Management is central on the way to achieve the transformation into a CE. The State Council of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) released its plan “生活垃圾分类制度实施方案” to promote source separation of household waste on March 30, 2017 aiming at the recycling rate for household waste to reach 35% by 2020 for the selected cities. The first China’s Mandatory Waste Source Separation Law “廣州市生活垃圾分類管理條例” was enforced by the city of Guangzhou on July 1st, 2018.

One of the key strategic plans in China is the development of the Greater Bay Area (GBA) with its comprehensive development plan released on February 18, 2019. Following the INDCs by China, parts of the GBA Development Plan emphasize that the development of the CE systems and the implementation of extended producer responsibility (EPR), are effective principles to provide financial incentives in view of reducing embedded emissions in material and processes.

The present research studied, analysed, and compared the MSW treatment strategies, rules, regulations, and retrievable data, which lead to MSW source separation and the reverse logistic of separated waste among 4 selected cities Guangzhou, Zhuhai, and the 2 S.A.R.s of Hong Kong and Macao.

The experience and comparison from Guangzhou and Hong Kong revealed that a Top-down approach in environmental policy decision making is more efficient and is able to implement necessary policies faster. However, the experiences from Guangzhou and Zhuhai indicate, that also a more participatory implementation process is crucial, as it enables the involved stakeholders to express their experiences and opinions properly, which can lead to a higher level of policy feasibility and acceptance and a smoother operation accompanied with a higher effectiveness.

For the two SARs, to achieve the objective to increase the recycling rate, the local Government must seek approval from China’s Central Government to allow locally generated recyclable material, in their original form, to enter mainland China for further treatment and to be turned into secondary raw material. Without such a proper support by a reverse resource logistic from the mainland, the CE schemes, such as the Mandatory Waste Source Separation, PRS, Waste Charging Scheme, are not able to be implemented effectively. The current approach of the Local Government purchasing of recycling and exportation services of recyclable materials from private companies, and the sole reliance on existing market forces to handle, process, and export recyclable material out of the S.A.R.s cannot ensure a reliable and continuous operation in view of mitigating involved emissions. By way of a comparative analyses, the present investigation works out and distils suggestions for best practices of implementing the CE to comply with targets of emission reductions.


Circular Economy (CE), Conference of Parties 21 (COP21), Greater Bay Area (GBA), Integrated Solid Waste Management (ISWM), Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), Municipal Solid Waste (MSW), Pearl River Delta Area (PRDA), Preparation for Reuse; Recycling, Resources, Reuse, Sustainable Development (SD), Waste Hierarchy, Zero-and-Low-Waste-Systems.