Introducing a classification framework to urban waste policy: Analysis of sixteen zero-waste cities in China

Wenting Ma*, Martin de Jong, Filippos Zisopoulos, Thomas Hoppe

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
33 Downloads (Pure)


Chinese cities are experiencing rapid urban development while facing severe challenges of environmental pollution. China's central government has proposed several policies to reduce urban waste. However, little is known about the adoption of these policies. Here, we raise the question how can circular policies be classified, and how can this classification be applied to cities in China that wish become zero-waste cities? We develop a framework to classify urban waste policies according to: (a) the “5R” principles (“Rethink”, “Reduce”, “Reuse”, “Recycle”, and “Recover”), (b) four types of waste (industrial, agricultural, municipal, and hazardous) and (c) six types of policy instruments (legal, economic, network, communication, innovation and projects). We use this framework to analyze urban waste policies implemented by sixteen zero-waste demonstration projects in China. The present study emphasizes combinations of policy instruments, “R” strategy and waste type in the implementation of zero-waste policies. We find that the “Rethink”, “Reduce”, and “Recycle” principles have been widely implemented by local authorities in contrast to the principles “Reuse” and “Recover”. Local governments address waste management by embracing regulations, innovation instruments, and project arrangements, while network-based, economic, or communicative policy instruments are used less often. Based on the results we suggest that local governments embrace a comprehensive approach to the use of the “5R” principles and deploy a diverse portfolio of policy instruments.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)94-107
Number of pages14
JournalWaste Management
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • China
  • Circular economy
  • Policy instruments
  • Urban waste policies
  • Zero-waste cities
  • “5R” principles


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