Approximately 40% of the U.K.’s plastic waste was sent to Turkey last year, according to a Greenpeace U.K. report. This is equivalent to 210,000 metric tons of plastic waste. The report has established that a bulk of the U.K.’s recyclable plastic that is sent to Turkey is either burned or ends up in landfills, roadsides and bodies of water.
Greenpeace investigated about 10 sites across Southern Turkey and found evidence of plastic packaging from U.K. supermarkets at every site. The organization also found the packaging of a coronavirus antigen test, an indication that the waste is less than a year old.
There have been increasing concerns that Turkey is becoming Europe’s dumping ground. In 2020, Turkey, Poland and Malaysia received the largest amounts of plastic waste from the U.K. Of more concern is the fact that most of the waste is not recycled but rather ends up in landfills. The waste exports to Turkey from the U.K. have grown exponentially from 12,000 metric tons in 2016 to 210,000 metric tons by 2020. The report has further established that the U.K. produces the most plastic waste per person after the U.S.
Nihan Temiz Atas, biodiversity projects lead for Greenpeace Mediterranean and who is based in Turkey, said, “Around 241 truckloads of plastic waste come to Turkey every day from across Europe and it overwhelms us. As far as we can see from the data and the field, we continue to be Europe’s largest plastic waste dump.”
Following the release of the report, the U.K. government has come out on the defensive, saying that there are already plans to stop the exportation of waste.
“We are clear that the U.K. should handle more of its waste at home, and that’s why we are committed to banning the export of plastic waste to non-OECD countries and clamping down on illegal waste exports — including to countries such as Turkey — through tougher controls,” the country’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said in a statement.
Many wealthy countries have long been dumping recyclable plastic waste in lower-income countries. Last year, Malaysia returned over 150 shipping containers of illegally imported waste to several countries, with 42 containers belonging to the U.K.
Image via Nareeta Martin