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Towards a New Waste Regime?

Critical Reflections on China’s Shifting Market for High-Tech Discards
Yvan Schulz
p. 43-50


This article explores how a multitude of entities vie for control over discarded electrical and electronic appliances in China. It analyses the strategies they deploy in order to gain or keep a competitive edge. Central government agencies, scientific research institutes, and large recycling groups, in particular, have recently joined forces with a view to redirecting flows of valuable consumer goods away from the so called “informal” sector of the economy, notably by creating high barriers to entry. They strive to distinguish themselves from small-scale recyclers by making ample use of green propaganda and narratives of technological progress. However, China’s state-sanctioned “management system” for “e-waste” recycling is not nearly as environmentally friendly as its proponents claim. It promotes a waste regime centred on "resources" – not products – and thereby contributes to accelerating and extending material cycles. Fully understanding its nature and impact requires seeing the link to other national policies, especially those promoting growth.

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Bibliographical reference

Yvan Schulz, « Towards a New Waste Regime? », China Perspectives, 2015/3 | 2015, 43-50.

Electronic reference

Yvan Schulz, « Towards a New Waste Regime? », China Perspectives [Online], 2015/3 | 2015, Online since 01 January 2017, connection on 13 May 2021. URL : ; DOI :

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About the author

Yvan Schulz

Yvan Schulz is a PhD candidate at the Anthropology Institute, University of Neuchâtel, and an associate researcher at the School of Philanthropy, Sun Yat-sen University. Anthropology Institute, University of Neuchâtel, Saint-Nicholas 4, 2000 Neuchâtel, Switzerland (

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