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Turkey acts on plastic imports

The Turkish government has announced a ban on imports for many categories of plastic
Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod
Yenidam, Seyhan, Adana Province, Turkey

Main image: Yenidam, Seyhan, Adana Province, Turkey © Caner Ozkan / Greenpeace

Following the release of a Greenpeace report which revealed evidence of UK plastic being dumped and burned in Turkey, the Turkish government has announced a ban on imports for many categories of plastic.

The new restrictions prohibit the UK exporting any polyethylene (LDPE and HDPE) plastics to Turkey, which include soft plastic films and bags and containers for shampoos and detergents.

These types of plastic make up 94% of UK plastic exports to Turkey. The UK exported nearly 198,000 tonnes of polyethylene to Turkey in 2020.

When the new rule comes in to force in 45 days’ time, Turkey will only accept PET or polypropylene plastics, which include water bottles and fizzy drinks bottles which can be recycled. 

‘We have been campaigning for years to stop enormous quantities of plastic trash coming to Turkey and making us Europe’s largest plastic waste dump. It’s around 240 truckloads every single day.

‘The plastic trash overwhelms our struggling recycling system, gets into the environment and is burned creating harmful smoke. We are very happy that the Minister for Environment is taking action to protect the health of our environment and our citizens.’

Biodiversity projects lead from Greenpeace Mediterranean, based in Turkey

Plastics dumped in Turkey

The on-the-ground investigation by Greenpeace UK revealed plastic waste is being exported to Turkey and then illegally dumped and burned.
The investigation found about 40% – 210,000 tonnes – of the UK’s plastic waste exports were sent to Turkey last year.
Rather than being recycled, investigators saw some of it dumped by roads, in fields and in waterways.

Greenpeace said it had investigated 10 sites across southern Turkey; at each site, the charity found plastic bags and packaging from UK supermarkets and retailers.

Packaging for a coronavirus antigen test was also found, indicating the waste was less than a year old.

‘People have been appalled to see images of UK household waste dumped and burned in Turkey, and to learn that the plastic they carefully sort for recycling is being shipped off for other countries to deal with. It is excellent news that the Turkish government has finally responded to years of calls from local campaigners to ban plastic trash from entering the country and protect people and the environment. Our colleagues at Greenpeace Turkey are delighted that international media attention on this story has encouraged the government to act.

‘But we mustn’t think this issue is now solved, our government must act too. We will be watching to see what happens with UK exports to Turkey, and are mindful that there may be an increase of shipments to other countries like Malaysia, Poland and the Netherlands. The UK government must put a stop to our plastic waste impacting other countries. We need a complete ban on all plastic waste exports and legislation to make UK companies reduce the amount of plastic they produce in the first place.’

Political campaigner at Greenpeace UK



A new animation from Greenpeace called Wasteminster: Disaster on Downing Street, which highlights the importance of ending UK plastic waste exports, has reached 2.4 million views on Twitter alone in just three days. It is the best-performing tweet ever from Greenpeace UK.

Voiced by impressionists Matt Forde and Jon Culshaw, the film shows Boris Johnson being engulfed in a wave of plastic while giving a speech in Downing Street.

Producers Park Village and Studio Birthplace used a bespoke VFX simulation to create the dynamic flow of 1.8 million kilos of plastic – the amount of waste the UK exports to other countries every day.

Wasteminster still
Wasteminster still © Greenpeace / Park Village, Studio Birthplace

‘Fed up of the UK continuously dumping its plastic waste on to them in the name of ‘recycling’ Turkey has decided to act. Shame on us that we didn’t take action before they did.

‘Turkey are the latest to join a growing list of countries who will no longer accept our waste. It’s vital the Government learns we cannot continue to offshore our responsibility in dealing with our plastic problem. The UK create more plastic waste per capita than any other country apart from the US. Not a league to be proud of.

‘The Government must act immediately and ban the exports of plastic waste to all non-EFTA countries and start to deal with it properly on home soil. Only when we realise the scale of our plastic waste, will we finally realise we have to turn off the plastic tap.’

A Plastic Planet co-founder

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