A summary of circular economy legislation around the world (Part I)

The circular economy is a new emerging economic model, which is based on a low use of natural resources. This model promotes a circular way of production bets on a rational management of raw materials and the reuse of waste as secondary raw materials. To avoid the scarcity of the resources and the fluctuation of their prices, the circular way of production is inclusive. Moreover, a closed-loop production can both increase growth and preserve natural resources. So, it would be a great conciliator of the economy and the environment. Companies are aware of the advantages of this model, which is why they are multiplying initiatives based on the circular logic. However, a public support is necessary to develop and spread this model. Recently, several states have put in place politics and legislation about circular economy. Here is a quick and no limited summary. (Two-part article)


dPhoto credit: Riccardof via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND


1° Japan

The lack of space and natural resources shortage lead Japan to promote a circular economy model and sanctify a 3R (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) approach. Their system is based on multiannual plans with performance targets. The legal Framework consists of three laws :

The first one is a basic act for establishing a Sound material-cycle society enforced in 2001. This law is structured in three parts. The first part defines the idea of a sound material-cycle society as a “society in which the consumption of natural resources is preserved and the environmental impact reduced by the application of 3R approach to wastes”. It also defines the objectives to be achieved and the respective roles of each actors. The second part sets out long term action plans and different methods of their evaluation, as well as the methods of informing and consulting the public. The last part is devoted to the identification of incentive levers to encourage the development of the circular economy.

The second and third one, Law for the promotion of effective utilization and waste management Law, focus on waste treatment and recycling. These decrees that industrial producers should make commitments on eco-design, longer product lifetime, labeling products for selective sorting etc…

Moreover, a set of sectoral laws specifies how to recycle each category of materials. It is then specified that the Producer of the waste has a special responsibility, such as the financing of collection and treatment of wastes.

At last, to show the involvement of the state, a green purchasing law is applied since 2001, in which the state takes the initiative to promote the use of recycled items.


2° China

China faced major challenges due to its rapid economic growth, so the country Placed the circular economy at the heart of its national strategy in the 2000 s.

The first law on the promotion of circular economy came into force in 2009. In addition to devoting a 3R model on wastes, this legislation took into account the use of raw materials and energy, industrial ecology, remanufacturing, etc…  The law aimed at all stakeholders, companies, consumers, NGOs, but has put emphasis on local authorities. Their role is to carry out programs concerning the establishment and the development of circular economy on a local level. Beside all this, tax incentives and bank lending facilities are allocated to projects doing promotion work for the efficient use of resources.

In order to evaluate projects relating to the circular economy, an indicator system is set up by the Chinese state. The “Circular Economy Evaluation Indicators system” includes several criteria such as energy consumption, recycling and reuse, pollution measure.

More recently, in 2013, the first national plan with quantified targets was published. A large part of it is dedicated to industrial, it should be noted that China is one of the pioneer countries in the field of experimentation and realization of pilot industrial eco-park.

==> A summary of circular economy legislation around the word (part II) <==

sources :

JUN (B.), YUICHI (M.), ZENGWEI (Y.), “The circular economy a new Development strategy in China”, Journal of Industrial Ecology, volume 10, 2006

NICKLAUS (D.), ROUQUET (R.), “comparaison internationale des politiques publiques en matière d’économie circulaire”, Commissariat général du développement durable, Etudes et Documents n°101, janvier 2014


Maryam Mazaher is currently studying Law and management of energies and sustainable development at the University of Strasbourg.




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