Category Archives: Blog

Helping China’s food waste problem

Through the rapid growth and urbanization rate, the amounts of waste are increasingly growing in China. First steps in the classification and sorting of municipal solid waste have been initiated in recent years. This has provided more insights into the troubling situation regarding food waste. Different research indicated that Chinese cities waste 17 to 18 million tonnes of food annually which is enough to feed 30 – 50 million people for a year.

To illustrate, in Shanghai food waste has increased by 27.5% in recent years, which is mainly generated by the catering sector. And even though Shanghai is the first urban city to implement strict sorting policies, there are challenges to overcome. Firstly, insufficient treatment capacity, it is estimated that Shanghai produces more than 9.000 tonnes of food waste daily but the treatment capacity can only handle 5.000 tonnes. Secondly, because of the insufficient quality composition of sorted food waste, using it for composting for example becomes more difficult.

As the priority for China is to become more self-sufficient, dealing with the food waste problem in a sustainable way is key to decrease the immense amounts of food imports for example. A transition to prevention will become increasingly important. The coming years will see more investments in experimenting with new valorization techniques. Finding more efficient and effective ways for the collection & sorting systems, finding new ways to reuse outputs from the existing treatment facilities back into the food chain but also creating new solutions that can deal with the urban-rural context.

Together with colleagues from our headquarters in the Netherlands, Dröge & van Drimmelen, our partners, New Economy, and Acclime, we are working together with the Netherlands Enterprise Agency and the Consulate General of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Shanghai, conducting a market study for business opportunities of Dutch enterprises within the Yangtze River Delta. The study is currently being finalized and scheduled to be published in July 2021.

Please contact us at if you are interested in knowing more or if you are in relevant food waste fields and would like to be updated and involved in future events regarding combating food waste in China.

e-Waste, a valuable circular mine field for CN-EU collaboration

With volumes increasing with 20% each year, e-waste is now the fastest growing type of waste in the world. China is the distribution center of 70% of global e-waste and a big e-waste production and consumption country. According to the Ministry of Environmental Protection, China now produces about 2 million tons of e-waste annually. The amount of e-waste from computers, mobile phones, and other electronics is expected to exceed 27 million tons by 2030, growing at an average annual rate of 10.4%. Meanwhile, the value of recyclable metals in the circuit boards of discarded computers and mobile phones will reach 160 billion yuan.


What is e-waste?

E-waste is any electrical or electronic equipment that’s been discarded. This includes working and broken items that are thrown in the garbage or donated to a charity reseller. Often, if the item goes unsold in the store, it will be thrown away. E-waste is particularly dangerous due to toxic chemicals that naturally leach from the metals inside when buried.

E-waste covers a variety of different products that are thrown away after use.

Large household appliances, such as washing machines and electric stoves, are the most collected, making up more than half of all collected e-waste. This is followed by IT and telecommunications equipment (laptops, printers), consumer equipment and photovoltaic panels (video cameras, fluorescent lamps) and small household appliances (vacuum cleaners, toasters). All other categories, such as electrical tools and medical devices, together make up just 7.2% of the collected e-waste.

Many people do not dispose of electronics properly and thus, a large portion of electronic device end up in landfills. In 2018, only 20% percent of e-waste worldwide produced was documented, collected, recycled.


China’s e-waste market

Current statistics show that Asia produced 24.9 Mt in 2020 and thatChina is the world’s top e-waste producer, having generated 10.1 Mt of e-waste in 2019. China plays a key role in the global EEE industry for two primary reasons: it is the world’s most populous country, so the domestic demand of EEE is very high, and it has a strong EEE manufacturing industry. Additionally, China plays a significant role in the refurbishment, reuse, and recycling of e-waste. Driven by e-waste regulation and the facilities expansion, the formal e-waste recycling industry has shown considerable growth in treatment capacity and quality; more than 70 million e-waste units are dismantled annually . According to the Chinese government, the actual collection and recycling rate is 40%, but it is important to note that this number only refers to 5 EEE products, as opposed to the 54 EEE products (UNU-Keys) listed in the international e-waste classification.


Current challenges

The collection and recycling rate drops to 15% if all 54 products are considered. China has national legislation in force that regulates the collection and treatment of fourteen types of e-waste (i.e. five types, initially, and nine more were later added)[1]. However, informal sector activities still co-exist next to this advanced recycling system. Due to the many metals in e-waste, collection, dismantling, and recycling in the informal sector poses health hazards for collectors, children and others living near the activity sites. Fortunately the informal sector has been dramatically declining, due to stricter controls from China’s new environmental law. The illegal importation of e-waste disappears more expeditiously because of the solid waste ban import policy which was implemented in 2018. However, the increasing gap between fund levies and subsidies is imposing distinct challenges for e-waste funding policy. The Chinese Government has set targets of sourcing 20% of raw materials for new electronics products from recycled content and recycling 50% of electronic waste by 2025.


Policy measures

Chinese government has issued a number of relevant laws, regulations and technical guidance over the past decade. For example:

  • Catalogue for Managing the Import of Wastes
  • Technical Guidance on Pollution Prevention and Control of Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment
  • Regulation on Management of Prevention and Control of Pollution from Electronic and Information Products
  • Administrative Measures on Pollution Prevention of Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment
  • Regulation on Management of the Recycling and Disposal of Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment

With the support from the government, companies started their e-waste recycling tour in recent years. For example, Aihuishou and Baidu Recycle partnered with e-device producers and retailers to make the recycle more targeted and effective.

Next to this, the Chinese government also collaborates on national and international e-waste projects to help guide e-waste reform. A number of partnerships have established over the past decade, which brings in national and global expertise. So is there room for CN-EU collaboration in e-waste?


European policy on e-waste

The European Commission published the Circular Economy Action Plan in March 2020 labelled reducing e-waste as a priority for EU countries. In the European Union, there is a very well-developed compliant e-waste management infrastructure to collect e-waste in shops and municipalities by private operators, as well as to further recover the recyclable components of the collected e-waste and dispose residuals in a compliant and environmentally sound manner. This has been established by the relatively long-running history of EU e-waste legislation since early in 2003. Consequently, statistics show that 59% of the e-waste generated in Northern Europe and 54% of e-waste generated in Western Europe is documented as being formally recycled; the e-waste collection data was reported for 2017. Those are the highest percentages in the world. For the reference year 2019, 85% of e-waste generated, or 65% EEE POM of the three preceding years, has to be collected by a member state of the EU, which indicates that collection and recycling must increase even further to meet the collection targets.


Public-private initiatives

Responding to the European policy measures, private initiatives in European member states have emerged which seek public-private cooperation to reach recycling targets. For example in the Netherlands the ‘OPEN Foundation’ (Organization for Producers’ Responsibility for E-Waste Netherlands) has emerged, which is a collective of more than 2.000 producers of white goods, ICT, audio and visual equipment, tools, fixtures and solar panels. The goal of this non-profit foundation is to meet the statutory collection target of 65 percent and to make e-waste circular. The existing innovative strength and collection, sorting and processing activities from the basis for the waste management structure. As per Dutch government decree, the OPEN foundation will take over the implementation of the legal producer responsibility in the Netherlands at the beginning of 2021.


Opportunities for CN-EU cooperation

While both public and private organizations on e-waste in both Europe and China have many challenges to address, there is great potential for cooperation from both sides. China’s governmental policy has been quite effective so far, but more cooperation with the private sector is needed to reach targets. European public-private initiatives can serve as an inspiration for similar projects in the Chinese sector. On the other hand, European initiatives can benefit greatly from the measuring and control systems the Chinese government has developed in recent years.



If we want to build back better, green and circular should remain a global target. With the newly signed Comprehensive Investment Agreement, China and Europe are very likely to have deeper cooperation on circular economy in the next few years. In this light cooperation on e-waste should be considered for any international projects being initiated, as it is not only a fast growing challenge, but also a source of great potential for both China and Europe.

Would you like to know what opportunities circular economy policy brings to your business in the coming years? In China or in the EU? Please do not hesitate to contact us at: We look forward to discuss how we can leverage opportunity together!






[1] The regulated fourteen types of e-waste are: televisions, refrigerators, washing machines, air conditioners, personal computers, range hoods, electric water-heaters, gas waterheaters, fax machines, mobile phones, single-machine telephones, printers, copiers, and monitors.

Shanghai turns to the Netherlands for inspiration on how to combat food waste

Combating food waste is a major challenge for governments. Because of Dr2’s previous experience in advising local governments on this topic, the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment and the Shanghai Municipal Commission of Commerce asked us to organize an exchange of views on food waste in the Netherlands. Together with our colleagues from Dr2 New Economy – our sister company with a focus on circular economy and sustainability, we invited Dutch experts for a factfinding mission at Instock, one of the Dutch innovative companies reimagining food waste streams. Jonah Link, our colleague from Dr2 New Economy wrote a blog about the meeting:

China is one of the biggest garbage producers of the world[1]. Household & company waste in China is characterized by a relatively large proportion of kitchen waste such as (cooking-)oil and residual food elements mixed with some type of packaging. Therefore, the Shanghai Municipal Commission of Commerce was sent out to the Netherlands to gather insights on how circular economy policies have stimulated innovative market solutions in the Netherlands and gather inspiration from exemplary businesses with regards to food waste reduction and management. Monday (25 november), together with our colleague Elvis Liang from our sister company Dr2 Consultants from Shanghai, Marieke van der Werf and I received the delegation. The reception and the program were facilitated by the Dutch government.

We arranged a lunch of healthy and tasty wasted foods as well as a meeting with several experts in terms of food waste management at the restaurant Instock in Amsterdam. During the meeting we had speakers over from Instock, the Municipality of Amsterdam, Utrecht University and Wageningen University Research. Some key takeaways: Roughly a third of all food is currently being wasted. If food waste was an industry in Amsterdam, it would be the second largest emitter of CO2-emissions in the city. The city of Amsterdam as a whole spends roughly €272 million euros each year on food that is never consumed. But the Netherlands is currently moving into the right direction with many new companies and initiatives that create new value by reducing waste.

In order to truly reduce food waste in Shanghai, a Dutch-Sino cooperation provides an interesting opportunity in collectively tackling this issue. Moreover, the Dutch government could work towards signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Shanghai government for Dutch-Sino cooperation in tackling kitchen/food waste. This could result in a long-term government-to-government advisory trajectory which can in turn provide opportunities for Dutch food waste management organizations. Currently, Dr2 New Economy is asked to explore the possibilities to formalize such cooperation with Dutch food waste organizations in an instrument like Partners International Business (PIB).

Imagine the impact of food waste reduction in a city like Shanghai which is about twenty times the size of Amsterdam. Mrs Zhu Yi, Vice-Chairman and leader of the delegation said afterwards that she hoped to continue this collaboration in tackling the challenge of global food waste share and exchange knowledge, data and best practices. For that we need to move from short-term driven coping measures to actual long-term system transformation while identifying stakeholder needs, overcoming barriers while monitoring impact. Thank you Froukje Anne Karsten, Jesus Rosales Carreon and Jorrit van Kooij for your inspiring presentations and for being part of the start of something meaningful.