Turkey tops lists as biggest importer of plastic waste from Europe

Turkey ranked as the country importing the most plastic waste from Europe in 2022, according to Eurostat. Fires in recycling plants have been increasing in parallel with waste imports.

Duvar English

Turkey became the largest importer of plastic waste from Europe in 2022, receiving 30 percent of the continent's plastic waste, according to reporting of daily BirGün based on Eurostat statistics.

Turkey imported 319,000 tonnes of recyclable plastics from the EU and was also one of the largest importers of recyclable paper with a volume of 588,000 tonnes. Some 12 percent of the EU's recyclable paper exports were made to Turkey.

In 2022, Turkey domestically created 109.2 million tonnes of waste, 29.4 million of which were hazardous according to state-run Turkish Statistical Institute (TÜİK). Turkey recorded the highest share of hazardous waste in total waste generation with 28.5% according to Eurostat.

During the same period, mining operations generated a total of 26.3 million tonnes of waste, with 23.7 million tonnes being hazardous. Additionally, thermal power plants produced 27.8 million tonnes of waste, including 10,500 tonnes of hazardous materials.

Furthermore, recycling facilities across Turkey have been frequently experiencing fires. The increasing number of fires in places where rubber, metal, and other waste materials are stored have raised discussions about arson and negligence. 

Experts pointed out a parallel between the rise in Turkey's waste imports and the increasing number of fires and emphasized that the investigations into these fires are not thorough enough.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) also reported in September 2022 that workers at the recycling plants complained of respiratory diseases, chronic headaches, and skin problems, and lacked access to protective equipment and health care for occupational diseases.