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SS Forum: Rethinking E-Waste & Climate-Trade Dilemma

Event Type
Guest Lecture
Prof. Xianlai Zeng and Prof. Xu Tang
Center for Sustainable Systems
School for Environment and Sustainability
April 25, 201910:00am - 11:30am
Room 2024 Dana Building

This SS Forum will include two talks by visiting professors.

Rethinking E-waste: Generation, Recycling, and Its Benefit


E-waste is one of the fastest growing waste streams globally, which has been well concerned and documented from regulation to technology since 2005. E-waste is valuable but toxic and imposing the sustainability in environmental quality, resource utilization, and even human health. This presentation will in detail address the global e-waste generation and latest recycling performance. Currently, around 50-54 million tons (Mt) of e-waste was generated, encapsulating 110-140 exascale jole of embodied energy. However, only 12 Mt were recycled in the formal manner with the around 23% recycling rate, contributed a lot by the U.S. and China. Therefore, the appropriate recycling of e-waste can not only protect the environment and maintain resource sustainability, but also save the energy for potential manufacturing to tackle the threat of climate change.


Xianlai Zeng is associate professor at Tsinghua University and Fulbright fellow at Yale University, studying urban mining, waste management, metal sustainability, and circular economy. He ever worked four years as lecturer at Environmental Management College of China, and two years as a postdoctoral research fellow in Tsinghua University, technical advisor of United Nations Development Programme (2015), visiting staff of Coventry University (2012), and visiting professor of Macquarie University (2017). Regarding urban mining, he established the method to measure the recyclability and recycling of e-waste, and developed many key pilot processes and facilities to recover metals. Regarding metal sustainability, he also created some methods to identify the sustainable utilization of metals (e.g., lithium, cobalt, nickel, lead, gallium). In waste recycling and circular economy areas, Dr. Zeng has published around 100 articles, patents, and books.


Re-examine the climate–trade dilemma and its tradeoff in China


Over the past decade, the accounting of emissions embodied in China's international trade has attracted much attention. The main existing research results show that China’s consumption-based emissions are much less than production-based emissions and China is a net embodied emission exporter. In fact, the flow of embodied emissions is a part of the normal pattern of economic phenomena occurring through international trade, with exports of embodied emission contributing significantly to China's economic development and job creation. The exports-oriented sectors in China are energy-intensive and the energy intensive exports are located in nearly the same sectors as the labor-intensive exports. Such climate–trade dilemma make it is difficult for China to sustain the trade-off costs. However, China’s economic development patterns have changed a lot after the global finance crisis and the country has entered a new phase of economic development—a new normal. The increasing trend of China’s embodied emissions exports and employment creation has been reversed under the new situation. This presentation will re-examine the whole storyline of China’s climate–trade dilemma and its tradeoff work at both national and provincial levels.


Dr. Xu Tang is a professor at China University of Petroleum, Beijing and visiting scholar currently at Yale’s Center for Industrial Ecology, with research interest in environment accounting and management, energy-environment-economic systems analysis, energy-water nexus, economic and environment impacts analysis of oil industry, supply modelling of fossil energy. Dr. Tang has published more than 40 peer-reviewed articles and two books in recent years, and is undertaking two research projects supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC). Tang had been a visiting scholar in Canadian Energy Research Institute (Oct.2009- Oct.2010), Uppsala University (Jun.2013-Sep.2013). He has been awarded the Excellent Doctoral Dissertation in Beijing, First prize of energy soft science research by China’s National Energy Administration, First prize of education and teaching achievement in Beijing, Outstanding Young Scholar in China University of Petroleum, Beijing.