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'Green' law likely from next year
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With the impending arrival of the Chinese Mooncake Festival in September comes the annual attack from environmental and economic corners regarding the packaging of the traditional food. But this year the festival is also likely to receive criticism for legal reasons.

A sewage treatment plant in Ningbo, Zhejiang Province.

A sewage treatment plant in Ningbo, Zhejiang Province.

For the first time in Chinese legislation, packaging is required to be designed in a simple style in order to prevent resource wastage and environmental pollution.

This is part of the draft circular economy promotion law, which will be deliberated for the last time by lawmakers this week and is likely to be passed before the weekend and will be officially put into force next year.

The draft law provides a legal framework for developing the economy, raising energy efficiency, protecting the environment and realizing sustainable development.

Wang Canfa, a professor at China University of Political Science and Law, said the circular economy promotion law would be different from the Energy Conservation law and the Law on the Promotion of Cleaner Production, whose aims to save energy and protect the environment overlap.

"The new law requires all the links from production to consumption to follow the rules of the circular economy," he said. "Everyone, from the government to society, from manufacturers to consumers, is legally bound to saving resources and protecting the environment. However, energy-intensive industries will be influenced the most."

The circular economy changes the traditional linear way of material flow, raising eco-efficiency based on 3Rs - reduction, reuse and recycle.

According to the draft, it will raise standards in resource reduction, safe waste disposal industrial production, mineral resource exploitation, construction, agriculture, governmental practice, urban domestic consumption and the service sector.

The draft stipulates that governments at all levels should make plans on the development of the circular economy, establish systems to control energy use and pollutant emission, strengthen management of companies with high energy and water consumption, and make policies to divert capitals into environmentally friendly industries.

It also introduces reward and punishment systems for companies, encouraging them to develop a recycling economy and making them responsible for the recycling of their products.

The draft requires the government to allocate special funds for supporting technological research, key projects, education, capacity building and the establishment of an information network.

Incentives, such as favorable tax and investment policies, will also be offered to organizations that take an active role in China's circular economy, according to the draft.

Violators could face a fine of up to 1 million yuan.

(China Daily August 26, 2008)

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