A comparison of waste-reduction practices and new environmental paradigm of rural and urban Chinese citizens

S.-S. Chung, C.-S. Poon*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

82 Citations (Scopus)


This paper compares the public attitudes of three southern Chinese cities/towns, namely Guangzhou, Dongguan, and Yuanzhou on waste recycling and avoidance, and the New Environmental Paradigm (NEP). The latter describes the concept of treating the resources and the ecosystems on Earth as things having their own rights rather than being subordinate and subservient to humans. These three places are chosen to represent areas in different stages of urbanization in the Guangdong province. As Hong Kong is also a southern Chinese city, where data of similar nature are available, comparison with Hong Kong is also made. It was found that the support for source separation of household waste in the rural and urban areas in mainland China was greater than that found in Hong Kong. Concerning actual practices on waste separation, about 85% of the respondents in the cities and almost all of the rural household surveyed have the habit of saving up and selling the recyclables. It is estimated that about 11-13% of the household waste was diverted in such a way. This is higher than the estimated 8% household waste recovery rate of Hong Kong. The majority of the respondents in the three surveyed cities have recovered household recyclables in the past but with higher family incomes, it was now less common. On the contrary, the lower income group tended to recover greater portion of their waste for selling to the waste depots. These findings have implications on the future waste management policy formulation in China. Regarding the acceptance of the New Environmental Paradigm, it was found that the rural population scored better than the urban population and they tended to agree more frequently with the NEP. However, the rural population perceives a greater potential for industrial and urban development without dampening environmental quality. It was also found that the NEP scores of the mainland Chinese are higher, in general, than their Hong Kong counterparts as measured in early 1990s. Insufficient public support has often been a concern for source separation programmes in all countries despite the obvious waste management benefits of recycling. This study shows that there is overwhelming support for source separation of waste in Mainland China, whether it is in rural or urban communities, and that most people are already undertaking source separation due to the redemption value of the recyclables. Therefore, for policy-makers, the concern should not be on whether the public knows how to separate the waste but rather on how to motivate them to separate waste for the good of society, and how to maintain an effective market for recyclables.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-19
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Environmental Management
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - May 2001

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law

User-Defined Keywords

  • household waste
  • waste recycling
  • waste reduction
  • waste avoidance
  • New Environmental Paradigm
  • Guangzhou
  • Yuanzhou
  • Dongguan
  • rural China


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