Turkey becomes world’s biggest importer of EU waste

Turkey has become the biggest importer of waste from the European Union, but much of it is not being recycled, France24 reported on Thursday.

Much of the waste comes from the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Belgium, and has had to find new markets for export as China stopped importing foreign waste in 2018.

In 2016, Turkey imported 4,000 tonnes of waste a month, but by 2019, it was taking 48,500 tonnes a month, according to Eurostat.

Vedat Kilic, chairman of Burkasa, a recycling company in Bursa, told France24 that all the recycled pellets made from recycled plastic were traced with a barcode system.

However, there have been widespread reports that some of the waste is being dumped in the Turkish countryside or burned.

Sedat Gundoğdu, a professor at Cukurova University, said that the waste recycling sector was disorganised and lacked control. “There is a large quantity of waste that arrives that is not recyclable,” he told France24.

Recycling companies pick the waste that they can recycle, but much of the rest is dumped, and Turkey’s southern coast has now become the most polluted section of the Medterranean sea.

Professor Gundoğdu said that the Turkish sea was three or four times as polluted in microparticles and plastic than other parts of the Mediterranean.

Nihat Temiz from Turkish Greenpeace told France24 that legislation to prevent pollution was not enough. Waste imports to Turkey “have to be better managed and the whole process must be transparent,” she said. Greenpeace wants Turkey to stop imports of foreign waste and concentrate on managing its own municipal waste, only 10 percent of which is recycled.

“There is currently no waste sorting system at the municipal or the national level, only the 500,000 or so trash pickers who walk the streets collecting different materials to sell,” France24 said.

In September a new Green Party (Yeşiller Partisi) was formed in Turkey, hoping to move environmental issues up the Turkish political agenda.