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Greening Industrial Production through Waste Recovery: “Comprehensive Utilization of Resources” in China

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journal contribution
posted on 20.01.2016, 00:00 by Junming Zhu, Marian R. Chertow
Using nonhazardous wastes as inputs to production creates environmental benefits by avoiding disposal impacts, mitigating manufacturing impacts, and conserving virgin resources. China has incentivized reuse since the 1980s through the “Comprehensive Utilization of Resources (CUR)” policy. To test whether and to what extent environmental benefits are generated, 862 instances in Jiangsu, China are analyzed, representing eight industrial sectors and 25 products that qualified for tax relief through CUR. Benefits are determined by comparing life cycle inventories for the same product from baseline and CUR-certified production, adjusted for any difference in the use phase. More than 50 million tonnes of solid wastes were reused, equivalent to 51% of the provincial industrial total. Benefits included reduction of 161 petajoules of energy, 23 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent, 75 000 tonnes of SO2 equivalent, 33 000 tonnes of NOX, and 28 000 tonnes of PM10 equivalent, which were 2.5%–7.3% of the provincial industrial consumption and emissions. The benefits vary substantially across industries, among products within the same industry, and when comparing alternative reuse processes for the same waste. This first assessment of CUR results shows that CUR has established a firm foundation for a circular economy, but also suggest additional opportunities to refine incentives under CUR to increase environmental gain.