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Turkey bans plastic waste imports following environmental campaign

Turkey has announced further restrictions on plastic waste imports to the country. The new regulations will ban common waste products.

Plastic waste dumped in Turkey revealed during Greenpeace investigation

Turkey has banned most plastic waste imports to the country after environmental campaigners reported finding rubbish from the UK and other European countries clogging rivers and burning on roadsides in the country.

The Turkish Ministry of Trade said the ban on plastic shopping bags and shampoo bottles from recycling imports, as well as other products made with polyethylene, will come into effect on July 2. Waste including PVC, used for cable insulation, as well as other less common plastics are already restricted. Greenpeace said the new ban will affect 94 per cent of UK plastic exports to Turkey. 

The UK sends hundreds of thousands of tonnes of recycling and waste to Turkey every year but a recent Greenpeace campaign found evidence of plastic packaging dumped across the country from UK supermarkets including Asda and Tesco.

Sam Chetan-Welsh, political campaigner at Greenpeace UK said: “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.

“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.”

Greenpeace has previously accused Boris Johnson of only adopting “half measures” with the plastic waste crisis.

Current UK laws ban the export of plastic waste from the UK unless it is for recycling purposes. 

However, Greenpeace’s report included photos of plastic waste on Turkey’s roadsides and waterways. These pictures  included evidence of UK brands such as M&S and Lidl. 

Karahan, Adana Province Turkey
Investigation into plastic waste that is dumped and burned in Turkey. The team found plastic packaging from UK, German and global food and drinks brands and supermarkets. Image: Caner Ozkan/Greenpeace

People exporting outside of UK regulation could face a two-year jail term. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs have said they are looking into the impacts of the ban. 

A Defra spokesperson said “We are clear that the UK 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 [Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development] countries and clamping down on illegal waste exports – including to countries such as Turkey – through tougher controls.”

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