Campaigners welcome Turkey’s move to ban imports of plastic waste

·3-min read

Campaigners have welcomed moves by Turkey to ban imports of plastic waste after it emerged UK rubbish was being dumped in the country.

The Turkish trade ministry has added ethylene polymer plastics – which includes plastic film and bags and containers for shampoos and detergents – to its list of waste materials that are illegal to import.

The move comes in the wake of a report from Greenpeace which highlighted how UK plastic has been found dumped and burned across southern Turkey.

The campaign group said investigators documented piles of plastic waste dumped illegally by the roadside, in fields or spilling into waterways and floating downstream in 10 sites dotted around the Adana province.

Greenpeace said plastic from the UK was found at all of these sites, with evidence of packaging and plastic bags from top UK supermarkets and retailers.

Rubbish burning on the side of a road in Turkey
Rubbish burning on the side of a road in Turkey (Caner Ozkan/Greenpeace/PA)

After the ban, which will take effect in 45 days, was announced, Nihan Temiz Ataş, from Greenpeace Mediterranean, based in Turkey, said: “We have been campaigning for years to stop enormous quantities of plastic trash coming to Turkey and making us Europe’s largest plastic waste dump.

“It’s around 240 truckloads every single day. The plastic trash overwhelms our struggling recycling system, gets into the environment and is burned, creating harmful smoke.

“We are very happy that the minister for environment is taking action to protect the health of our environment and our citizens.”

Sam Chetan-Welsh, political campaigner at Greenpeace UK, said: “People have been appalled to see images of UK household waste dumped and burned in Turkey, and to learn that the plastic they carefully sort for recycling is being shipped off for other countries to deal with.

“It is excellent news that the Turkish government has finally responded to years of calls from local campaigners to ban plastic trash from entering the country and protect people and the environment.”

He warned that there may be an increase of shipments to other countries such as Malaysia, Poland and the Netherlands, and called for a complete ban on UK exports of plastic waste and a requirement on companies to reduce the amount they produce in the first place.

Sian Sutherland, co-founder of campaign group A Plastic Planet, said: “Turkey are the latest to join a growing list of countries who will no longer accept our waste.

“It’s vital the Government learns we cannot continue to offshore our responsibility in dealing with our plastic problem.”

UK legislation prohibits the shipment of waste outside Europe if it is intended for disposal, rather than recycling, while the Government has pledged to ban the export of polluting plastic waste to developing countries and introduce tougher controls on waste exports.

An Environment Department (Defra) spokesperson said: “We are clear that the UK should handle more of its waste at home, and that’s why we are committed to banning the export of plastic waste to non-OECD countries and clamping down on illegal waste exports – including to countries such as Turkey – through tougher controls.

“The UK is a global leader in tackling plastic pollution and our proposals for extended producer responsibility for packaging, a plastic packaging tax and mandatory electronic waste tracking will boost recycling rates, reduce waste and cut crime.”