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Turkey becomes new dump for global plastic waste

Due to lax regulations, plastic scrap imports to Turkey have skyrocketed since 2018; why is the AKP letting the country turn into a global wastebasket?
Garbage collectors look for recyclable waste at a dumping ground on World Environment Day at the outskirts of southeastern province of Diyarbakir, Turkey June 5, 2018. REUTERS/Umit Bektas - RC1546A27F00

World Wildlife report this month on plastic pollution in the Mediterranean found the highest amount of plastic debris had accumulated in Turkey's Cilicia on the southeastern coast. The report also ranked Turkey as the second biggest contributor to mismanaged waste in the region after Egypt, with Turkey responsible for 18.9% of the waste in the Mediterranean. The report raises a crucial red flag for the near future. Since the Chinese government started enforcing strict regulations on its plastic imports in 2018, Turkey has become one of the world’s top 10 waste importers.

In the last couple of years, Turkish imports of plastic waste have made headlines in papers with alarming titles such as “New plastic waste bin of the world: Turkey” or “Turkey: Europe’s new trash can.” At the beginning of 2016, Turkey imported 4,000 tons of plastic waste monthly, while around the same time period in 2018 the number had reached 33,000 tons.

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