Assessment of Plastic Stocks and Flows in China: 1978-2017

Jiang, X., Wang, T., Jiang, M., Xu, M., Yu, Y., Guo, B., Chen, D., Hu, S., et al. (2020). Assessment of Plastic Stocks and Flows in China: 1978-2017. Resources, Conservation and Recycling 161 e104969. 10.1016/j.resconrec.2020.104969.

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Plastics have a broad range of use, but also bring about a variety of environmental implications. China is the world's largest producer and user of plastics, accounting for nearly one-third of the total global flow. Investigating plastic production and use in China is thus critical for developing solutions to promote material circularity and to minimize environmental impacts. We examined five categories of plastics—polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polystyrene (PS), and acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (ABS)—which together contribute 74% of China's total primary plastic consumption. We employed a dynamic model to quantify the material stocks and flows of these five plastics from 1978-2017. The results show that the annual use of these five major plastics increased dramatically from 1 million ton/annual (Mt/a, equivalent to 1 kg/capita) in 1978 to 63 Mt/a (46 kg/capita) in 2017. The in-use plastic stocks were estimated at 305 Mt (219 kg/capita) as of 2017, with 60% in building and construction sectors. The rapid increase in plastic use generated substantial post-consumer waste flows up to 44 Mt/a in 2017, out of which 26 Mt/a was packaging waste. Over the past 40 years, 29% of the plastic waste was recycled to produce secondary materials, in comparison to 12% incinerated, 42% landfilled, and 17% discarded without any proper treatment. Policy implications for enhancing plastic recycling are discussed.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Material flow analysis; Plastics; Waste management; Recycling; China
Research Programs: Energy (ENE)
Depositing User: Luke Kirwan
Date Deposited: 08 Jun 2020 07:26
Last Modified: 27 Aug 2021 17:33

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