UK plastic waste deluge hits Turkey, says Greenpeace

18th February 2021 | Recycling

Figures from the environmental campaign group Greenpeace show a 36% increase in plastic waste exports to Turkey in 2020, taking them to 209,600 tonnes. This was far ahead of second placed Malaysia at 65,300 tonnes, although that country had a 63% increase in exports. These conclusions were drawn from a Greenpeace analysis of the UK’s trade figures for the end of 2020, which revealed exports of 537,000 tonnes of plastic waste in all.

Plastic waste

Greenpeace UK political campaigner Sam Chetan-Welsh said, “The plastic we carefully wash and sort for recycling is being shipped off to other countries where much of it ends up illegally dumped or burned, poisoning local people and polluting oceans and rivers. “The Government could put a stop to this but so far Boris Johnson is only offering half measures. 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.”

Total plastic waste exports for 2020 were almost unchanged from 2019 but the sharp increases in waste sent to Turkey, Malaysia and Poland – the latter having received a 7% increase to 37,800 tonnes – meant more waste was being sent to countries that have “very low recycling rates and a serious problem with plastic waste being dumped or burned illegally,” Greenpeace said.

It noted that plastic waste can only be exported from the UK if it is going to be recycled. But Greenpeace said much of this went to countries with insufficient recycling facilities for the volumes involved, and so ended up dumped illegally or burnt. Greenpeace said the Government’s 2019 manifesto pledge to ban plastic waste exports to countries outside the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) would have little impact since only 21% of UK waste exports went to these destinations.

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UK plastic waste deluge hits Turkey, says Greenpeace