Turkey is reported to have reversed its controversial decision to impose a ban on a range of plastic waste imports from the UK, only days after its introduction.
The news has been met with relief from the UK plastic waste and recycling sector but dismay from environmentalists who fear that it may re-open the doors for Turkey to be a dumping ground for UK-sourced plastic waste.
The ban, announced by Turkey in May, had been due to take effect on 2 July. It would have included both film and rigid plastics, including bottles. Turkey is by far the largest destination for exported plastic waste from the UK.
Simon Ellin, chief executive of the Recycling Association told MRW that while the Turkish change of heart has not been officially confirmed by Defra, it is potentially good news for the UK recycling industry.
It would have stopped up to 25,000 tonnes of UK waste plastic a month going to Turkey, which is the largest UK export market after the Netherlands.
Ellin said it is important for the UK and Turkey to clamp down on a small number of illegal operators who are flouting the rules and for both sides to get it right.
He said: “Waste should only be going to licensed Turkish processors. If we ensure that only high quality materials are going out and it’s properly handled at their end, then there won’t be a problem.”
Although Turkey looks to have rescinded on what would have been an almost complete ban on plastic waste imports, it has announced increased inspections by officials and a requirement for recyclers to produce yearly letters of guarantee.
In January, Turkey, which has not adopted the Basel B3011 waste convention, imposed rules designed to improve the quality of plastic waste being allowed into the country. Mixed polymers and mechanically processed materials were banned. However, plastic packaging could still be exported if it contained on polymer and hot been mechanically treated.
In May, the rules were further tightened to include LDPE and HDPE polymers for film and rigid containers and PET, or polyethylene. The tighter restrictions, now lifted, had met with strong opposition and lobbying from Turkish recyclers and members of PAGDER, the Turkish Plastic Industrialists’ Association, who argued that they would be severely economically restrictive.
Megan Randles, political campaigner at Greenpeace UK, said: “It is concerning that the Turkish government has succumbed to industry lobbying and has lifted their ban on plastic waste imports just days after it came into force. UK plastic sent to Turkey is being dumped and burned, with serious environmental and social consequences for local people.”
He called on the UK Government to ban all plastic waste exports. MRW contacted Defra for a comment.