Turkey struggles to cope with plastic waste as imports surge

Turkey has been struggling to overcome its plastic waste problem as it has become the new dumpsite of the world’s plastic waste, Al Jazeera said on Thursday. 

Turkey’s plastic waste imports rose sharply from 4,000 tonnes per month in early 2016 to 33,000 tonnes per month in early 2018, after China imposed a ban on plastic waste imports.

"Imports of plastic waste are not acceptable on any grounds. It is pointless for a country that has not yet been able to deal with its own waste," Al Jazeera quoted Sedat Gundogdu, an academic at the Cukurova University Faculty of Fisheries, as saying.

Research published in the journal Science in 2015 listed Turkey among the top 20 countries in the world for mismanaging plastic waste. Turkey is also responsible for about a fifth of all plastic leaked into the Mediterranean, according to a 2019 report by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

Turkey has emerged as a major global importer of plastic waste, as the United States, Germany, Britain, and Japan have started exporting more to the country after the Chinese ban. Turkey's recycling record remains weak, despite the zero-waste policy launched by Turkey's first lady, Emine Erdoğan, in 2017.