ANKARA (Middle East Eye) – The UK and Germany have continued to illegally export non-recyclable plastic waste to Turkey, where it is burnt at landfill sites and pollutes the environment, a Greenpeace investigation revealed on Monday.
The report indicated that Turkey received almost 40 percent of the UK’s plastic waste exports (209,642 tonnes) in 2020, nearly half of which was mixed plastic that is mostly non-recyclable.
The report found that EU member states also exported 20 times more plastic waste to Turkey in 2020 compared with 2016 - about 447,000 tonnes - making Turkey the largest export country for plastic waste from the EU.
EU and UK regulations currently ban exports of plastic waste unless it is delivered to another country for recycling. However, Turkey has a very low official recovery rate for municipal waste, which stands at 12 percent in 2018, the lowest of any OECD member country.
Germany, in particular, was responsible for most rubbish, sending 136,000 tonnes of waste to Turkey in the same year, increasing its exports sevenfold since 2016.
Local media have also reported that 400 containers of plastic waste from Germany are currently standing in Turkish ports and cannot be further processed because the Turkish company which imported them, 2B Plant, later didn’t take the ownership of the deliveries.
Greenpeace said the Turkish company’s business partner, through intermediaries, is also said to be ALBA, one of the largest German waste disposal companies.
“As this new evidence shows, plastic waste coming from Europe to Turkey is an environmental threat, not an economic opportunity,” said Nihan Demiz Atas, a Turkey-based Greenpeace project leader in a press release.
“Uncontrolled imports of plastic waste do nothing but increase the problems existing in Turkey’s own recycling system. Around 241 truckloads of plastic waste come to Turkey every day from across Europe and it overwhelms us.”
The Greenpeace Research team visited 10 wild landfills in the Adana’s Cilicia region in southern Turkey in March 2021 and came across mountains of plastic waste, mostly from the UK and Germany.
The team reported that the Cilician coastline suffers more plastic pollution than any other stretch of the Mediterranean. The River Seyhan, which runs through the centre of Adana, and the River Ceyhan, which runs to the southeast, are collectively responsible for 9 percent of the plastic pollution entering the Mediterranean each year - second only to the Nile, according to the Greenpeace report.
Large amounts of plastic waste were found at 10 locations on the outskirts of the city, which were illegally dumped in fields, near rivers, railroad tracks and on the roadside, and were often on fire or had already been burned. Among other things, a Covid-19 rapid test was found which proves that part of the waste was only exported in the period this year or last year.