This free course, Waste management and environmentalism in China, has shown how the rapid growth in the production and consumption of goods in China has given rise to exceptional amounts of waste, and this trend is expected to continue. Historically, the management of many wastes has been uncontrolled and has led to environmental damage and health concerns. China has started to put in place better environmental strategies to collect and treat waste, but more progress needs to be made, particularly in bringing together informal and formal means of collecting and treating municipal solid waste (MSW).
Adopting a circular economy approach and developing eco-industrial parks have helped deliver some resource efficiencies and increase recycling of some industrial wastes. However, it is early days and it remains to be seen whether China will fully deliver a circular economy.
In addition, from a beginning of championing biodiversity, Chinese environmental groups have developed and nurtured a new generation of environmental activists who increasingly have social media tools at their disposal. Growing awareness and this kind of ‘soft’ political activism may not always translate into action, however, given the cumbersome nature of Chinese bureaucracy, tensions between local and national politics, and competition for funding.