According to a report on international plastic scrap trade released by Greenpeace on April 23, Turkey has become one of the major destinations for plastic waste export.
The Greenpeace report covers new trends and statistics on plastic scrap trade following China’s import ban in 2017. Main findings show that plastic waste has been redirected to less regulated countries, especially South East Asian countries and Turkey and that global plastic scrap exporters now have an enormous volume of unprocessed waste.
Following the first six months of China’s import regulation on plastic imports, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam followed suit and restricted their imports too. Consequently, European plastic waste was then directed to Turkey.
Turkey is 8th biggest plastic waste importer
At the end of 2018, Turkey became the 8th biggest plastic waste importer in the world, with 436,000 tons of waste being imported compared to being 17th in 2015 with 104,000 tons.
In 2018, the main plastic waste exporters to Turkey were UK, Germany, Iraq, Belgium and the US. In 2015, UK’s plastic scrap exports to Turkey were around 759 tons but increased to 82,736 tons in 2018 – 109 times more.
Although many countries revised their import policy after China’s policy change regarding waste imports, Turkey has seen it as a growing business opportunity and has not recognized the crisis.
There are currently 751 licensed recycling facilities and 566 waste collecting and separating centers in Turkey.
“Turkey can’t even handle their own waste”
Deniz Bayram, Greenpeace Mediterranean Project Coordinator, and legal counsel stated that Turkey cannot even handle its own waste, therefore the unregulated import of waste will cause further problems to Turkey’s recycling system. She suggested that Turkey immediately revise its import policies on plastic waste recycling.
According to a 2015 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) report, Turkey sends only 1 percent of its own waste to recycling centers. Among all OECD member countries, Turkey and Chile are the only countries that have become worse at recycling since 2000, with a 33 percent and 78 percent decline respectively.
The data analysis of the Greenpeace report is based on trade statistics between October 2016 and November 2018.