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Circular economy is recognized as a powerful integrative framework envisioned to solve societal problems linked to environmental pollution and resource depletion. Its adoption is rapidly reforming manufacturing, production, consumption, and recycling across various segments of the economy. However, circular economy may not always be effective or even desirable owing to the spatiotemporal dimensions of environmental risk of materials, and variability of global policies. Circular flows involving toxic materials may impose a high risk on the environment and public health such that overemphasis on anthropogenic circularity is not desirable. Moreover, waste flows at a global scale might result in an uneven distribution of risks and costs associated with a circular economy. Among other benefits, circular economy needs to generate environmental advantages, energy savings, and reductions of greenhouse gas emissions. Recent attempts to implement the carbon neutrality strategy globally will likely push the circular economy further into more economic sectors, but challenges remain in implementing and enforcing international policies across national boundaries. The United Nations Basel Convention on the Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Waste and their disposal is used here as an example to illustrate the challenges and to propose a way forward for anthropogenic circularity.


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Reshaping global policies for circular economy

Show Author's information Xianlai ZengaOladele A. OgunseitanbShinichiro NakamuracSangwon SuhdUlrich KraleJinhui LiaYong Gengf( )
School of Environment, Tsinghua University, Beijing 100084, China
Department of Population Health and Disease Prevention, University of California, Irvine, CA 92697, USA
Faculty of Political Science and Economics, Waseda University, 1-6-1 Nishi-waseda, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 169-8050, Japan
Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA 93106, USA
Environment Agency Austria, Vienna 1090, Austria
School of International and Public Affairs, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Shanghai 200030, China

Abstract

Circular economy is recognized as a powerful integrative framework envisioned to solve societal problems linked to environmental pollution and resource depletion. Its adoption is rapidly reforming manufacturing, production, consumption, and recycling across various segments of the economy. However, circular economy may not always be effective or even desirable owing to the spatiotemporal dimensions of environmental risk of materials, and variability of global policies. Circular flows involving toxic materials may impose a high risk on the environment and public health such that overemphasis on anthropogenic circularity is not desirable. Moreover, waste flows at a global scale might result in an uneven distribution of risks and costs associated with a circular economy. Among other benefits, circular economy needs to generate environmental advantages, energy savings, and reductions of greenhouse gas emissions. Recent attempts to implement the carbon neutrality strategy globally will likely push the circular economy further into more economic sectors, but challenges remain in implementing and enforcing international policies across national boundaries. The United Nations Basel Convention on the Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Waste and their disposal is used here as an example to illustrate the challenges and to propose a way forward for anthropogenic circularity.

Keywords: Circular economy, Anthropogenic circularity, Recycling, Solid waste, International policy

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Publication history

Received: 12 January 2022
Revised: 11 February 2022
Accepted: 14 February 2022
Published: 22 June 2022
Issue date: September 2022

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© 2022 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier B.V. on behalf of Tsinghua University Press.

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Acknowledgements

The work is financially supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China of China (92062111, 72088101, 71810107001) and the National Key R&D Program of China (2019YFC1908501).

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This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).

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