UK recyclables exported to Turkey burned, dumped instead

A recent report titled "Trashed" by global environmental organization Greenpeace revealed that plastic waste from the United Kingdom that Turkey imported is in fact burned and dumped instead. Greenpeace's recent report expands on their initial discoveries of plastic waste mismanagement in Turkey back in 2020, revealing that UK plastic is polluting the Mediterranean.

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A recent report by global environmental organization Greenpeace revealed that plastic waste from the United Kingdom that's exported to Turkey for recycling is systematically burned, open dumped, and left to pollute the environment.

Released on May 17 with the title "Trashed," the Greenpeace report notes that Turkey is now the leading importer of British plastic waste, adding that the country also employs an "open attitude" to waste imports.

"EU member states exported 20 times more plastic waste to Turkey in 2020 than they did in 2016, with the volume increasing from 22,000 tonnes to 447,000 tonnes," Greenpeace said. 

Greenpeace found packaging from the UK in the southern province of Adana where initial reports of poor waste management had emerged in 2020 and said that waste was "dumped and burned at illegal rubbish tips all across Adana Province."

"It included packaging and plastic bags from high street retailers such as Tesco, Asda, the Co-op, Aldi, Sainsbury’s, Lidl and Marks & Spencer, as well as Lucozade and Fanta bottles and a car number plate," Greenpeace said. 

A majority of the waste found in Adana province was contained in plastic bags used by local recycling factories, Greenpeace said, noting that many bags "had been ripped open, seemingly deliberately, allowing the plastic to escape."

"In some cases, layers of plastic waste had been covered in soil before more plastic waste was dumped on top, creating artificial hills several feet high. Other plastic waste was spilling into waterways and floating downstream."

The UK remained the primary source of imported waste in Turkey, with their export volumes growing by nearly 20 fold since 2016 for a total of 209,642 tonnes sent to Turkey in 2020 alone. 

"The UK’s reckless decision to send more and more of its plastic waste to a country that lacks the infrastructure to cope with it has triggered a crisis with lasting environmental and social consequences," Greenpeace said. 

Greenpeace also noted that Turkey's recycling rate remained at 12 percent, the lowest among OECD countries and that a recent ban by Ankara to limit waste imports had done very little to accelerate the recycling of domestic waste.