On 11 December 2017, the Sino-German Legal Cooperation Programme and the Environment Protection and Resources Conservation Committee of the National People’s Congress held a workshop on the law relating to the circular economy. The Chinese participants included Mr LU Hao, Chair of the Environment Committee, Mr WANG Qingxi, Vice-Chair, Mr PU Changcheng, Committee member, and Mr ZHAI Yong, Head of the Committee’s Legislative Affairs Department, as well as a number of other experts. The Environment Committee of the National People’s Congress includes members of the Standing Committee and has its own expert support staff. It prepares the decisions of the Standing Committee and the annual sessions of the National People’s Congress. The one-day workshop focused on experience gained with Germany’s Closed Substance Cycle Act.
The context for the workshop was the planned revision of the Circular Economy Promotion Law of the People’s Republic of China. One flaw identified in the existing legislation is that it solely regulates the resource cycle, without considering that resources are taken out of circulation as – hitherto unavoidable – waste products. It thus contains no provisions on waste management and disposal.
At the invitation of the Sino-German Legal Cooperation Programme, German experts – Professor Walter Frenz from RWTH Aachen University and Professor Michael Kotulla from Bielefeld University – gave presentations on selected aspects of the German legislation governing the circular economy. A particular focus of interest was the taxonomy of the German Closed Substance Cycle Act, i.e. its content, objectives and principles, and the issues of waste recycling, waste sorting, extended producer responsibility, financial incentive schemes, green design and reuse of used goods. The experts drew frequent comparisons with the Chinese legislation on the circular economy. After these presentations, there was a question and answer session for the members of the Environment Committee, who posed probing questions about the concept of a circular economy, cost calculation methods, organisation of waste separation and the market for used goods in Germany, etc. This sparked a lively and partly heated discussion about the planned Chinese reform.
The workshop was the first event to be organised by the Legal Cooperation Programme in collaboration with the Environment Committee. Feedback from participants was very positive and the Environment Committee therefore proposed that an exchange of experience be held on other topics of environmental relevance.