Turkey becomes Europe’s dumping ground for illegal plastic waste

Rising poverty in Turkey and a ruthless drive to shrink the current account deficit is forcing the government to measures which threaten public health in  many dimensions. The first such action is to invite tourists to Turkey, even though only 13% of the population is vaccinated, with no certainty about the arrival of new batches. Middle East Eye, BBC and other global news outlets now report that the country has become the dumping ground for non-recyclable plastic waste, where it is burnt at landfill sites and pollutes the environment, according to a Greenpeace investigation revealed on Monday.


Greenpeace said about 40% – or 210,000 tons – of the UK’s plastic waste exports were sent to Turkey last year.


But rather than being recycled, investigators saw some of it dumped by roads, in fields and in waterways.


The UK is a “global leader in tackling plastic pollution”, the government said – after Greenpeace called for it to “take control” of the problem.


Greenpeace’s report warned Turkey was becoming Europe’s “largest plastic waste dump”.


The charity said it had investigated 10 sites across southern Turkey and found plastic bags and packaging from UK supermarkets and retailers at all of them.


Packaging for a coronavirus antigen test was also found, indicating the waste was less than a year old, the report said.


Germany, in particular, was responsible for most rubbish, sending 136,000 tons 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.”



Ironically, today’s release of April central budget data revealed a 141% YoY increase in import taxes. So, in as much as plastic dumping kills the environment and poisons its people, the government’s policy can be defined as a success, because it does contribute to higher tax revenues and ultimately to lower current account deficits.




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Published By: Atilla Yeşilada

GlobalSource Partners’ Turkey Country Analyst Atilla Yesilada is the country’s leading political analyst and commentator. He is known throughout the finance and political science world for his thorough and outspoken coverage of Turkey’s political and financial developments. In addition to his extensive writing schedule, he is often called upon to provide his political expertise on major radio and television channels. Based in Istanbul, Atilla is co-founder of the information platform Istanbul Analytics and is one of GlobalSource’s local partners in Turkey. In addition to his consulting work and speaking engagements throughout the US, Europe and the Middle East, he writes regular columns for Turkey’s leading financial websites VATAN and www.paraanaliz.com and has contributed to the financial daily Referans and the liberal daily Radikal.