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Sustainability and Waste Imports in China: Pollution Haven or Resources Hunting

Bowen Li, Antonio Alleyne (), Zhaoyong Zhang and Yifei Mu
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Bowen Li: School of International Economics and Trade, Dongbei University of Finance and Economics, Dalian 116025, China
Zhaoyong Zhang: School of Business and Law, Edith Cowan University, Joondalup, WA 6027, Australia
Yifei Mu: School of International Economics and Trade, Dongbei University of Finance and Economics, Dalian 116025, China

Sustainability, 2021, vol. 13, issue 2, 1-21

Abstract: Motivations behind a country’s importation of waste are categorized into the pollution haven hypothesis (PHH) and the resource hunting hypothesis (RHH). The importation of wastes can lead to environmental sustainability concerns, requiring governments to intervene when the market fails to reduce the negative externalities by strengthening and implementing environmental regulations. Motivated by China’s position within a rapidly growing but environmentally damaging sector of trade, this paper has three goals: (1) to classify the primary hypothesis that governs China’s flow of traded wastes; (2) to verify the heterogeneous impact of the pollution paradise motivation and resource demand motivation of waste imports from developed and developing countries, and across industries; (3) to assess the impact of domestic environmental regulations on the motives behind China’s waste imports. Using 28 imported waste-varieties from 20 of China’s major trade partners across 24 years, findings indicate that the flow of Chinese waste imports is relatively unresponsive under the pollution haven effect. However, the resource hunting effect from developing countries is significantly greater than what originates from developed countries, despite the laws of 2011 and 2017 established to restrict resource hunting activities. These results have important implications for improving the efficiency of China’s waste sorting and recycling systems.

Keywords: waste imports; pollution haven; resource demand; environmental regulation; developing country (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: O13 Q Q0 Q2 Q3 Q5 Q56 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2021
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