This site uses cookies. By accepting cookies you can optimise your browsing experience. Read more.
Dumped On: Europe’s Hazardous Plastic Fills Turkey16:25

Dumped On: Europe’s Hazardous Plastic Fills Turkey

Turkey, Various
May 4, 2020 at 02:58 GMT -00:00 · Published

Spiralling and uncontrolled, Turkey's waste imports have left the country on the verge of an environmental crisis - but there are wider concerns too for almost half a million people.

"The biggest violation of human rights is to threaten people's health and lives. Now European countries commit that crime by sending their plastic waste to our country and to others."

The head of Turkey's Street Waste Collectors Association, Recep Karaman, has warned that Europe's growing waste exports are a disaster waiting to happen.

Karaman stressed to Ruptly that rubbish from Europe poses health risks not only for Turkey but also for other non-European countries, "The logic of European countries is this: let us keep our own environment clean and healthy; we do not care about other countries."

In 2018, China banned plastic waste imports. Since then several other countries have rapidly become giant dumpsites, leaving Turkey as one of the main recipients.

The biennial 2019 World Wildlife Report, which documents the state of the planet - and what it means for humans and nature - has revealed a looming environmental threat in the East Mediterranean. According to the WWF, Turkey's Cilicia region has the highest level of pollution off Europe's southern coastline.

The findings also rank Turkey as the second biggest contributor to mismanaged waste in the region after Egypt. It's claimed Turkey is responsible for 18.9 percent of trash in the Mediterranean. A crucial red flag for the near future, as Beijing continues to enforce strict regulations - and Turkey enters the global top 10 for waste imports.

Footage from earlier this year shows the extent of the plastic waste visible on the seabed along Turkey's southern coast. Scientists are also seen collecting samples of microplastics from the sea for further testing.

Sedat Gundogdu, from the Fisheries Department at Adana's Cukurova University, has been using new data sets to shed light on the harrowing reality that's nesting and slowly suffocating the East Mediterranean.

"Daily plastic flow rate to the beach sediment, I mean, from the sea to the beach, is around 31 kilograms of plastic per day. Per kilometer per day the amount is 31 kilograms of plastic. This is the highest level of plastic flow rate in the Mediterranean," Gundogdu explained to Ruptly.

The United Kingdom leads the way in terms of waste exports to Turkey. According to the UK's Environment Agency, in the first three months of 2018, Britain shipped 27,034 tonnes of waste plastic to Turkey - more than double that for the same period the previous year.

The US has also turned to Turkey, after China banned plastic waste imports. But the strain is threatening the role of rubbish collectors. Around half a million people pick up trash from Turkish streets to earn a living, but the overabundance of refuse in the country is bringing prices down in the waste management industry. Over a two-year period, plastic intake has soared from a reported 159,000 tons to 439,000.

Reportedly, each month, about 10 ships pull into the ports of Istanbul and Adana, carrying about 2,000 tons of cheap US scrap plastic. Most of it comes from Georgia, Charleston, Baltimore and New York and those cargo ships are joined by dozens of others from the UK and other European countries.

"Most of the plastic waste is imported from the United Kingdom. The main countries are the UK, Germany and Italy. Italy is the country that most of the non-recyclable waste comes from. Besides Britain, Germany and Italy, Turkey imports plastic and waste from the United States and Iraq," says Recep Karaman.

The Chairman of Turkey's Chamber of Environmental Engineers, Baran Bozoglu, raised questions to Ruptly about the availability of trustworthy data. "The main problem is transparency. Because we have a real difficulty in getting the information and getting the numbers about plastic waste imports. From which countries, from which European companies, Turkey is receiving more and more waste and where is that waste sent to inside Turkey?."

The perceived lack of transparency is apparently making it difficult to determine the exact origin, quantity and chemical threat of the plastic waste that is flowing into Turkey at an enormous speed.

Recep Karaman, again, says that one of the main reasons China banned the import of plastic waste is the hazardous effects of such refuse on public health. He explained that in the former dumping regions in China, babies are being born with asthma - and warned that if restrictions aren't applied quickly, the same could happen in Turkey

Bio Med Central, a research community for academics, documented the effects of particulate matter (PM) on childhood asthma in Xiamen, China in 2019. It concluded that in the short-term, looking at a period of two-and-a-half years, there was clear evidence to show that child asthma was being exacerbated - based on pediatric records.

The findings showed that exposure to PM10 and PM2.5 had the most significant effects. Xiamen used to be one of China's worst regions for oceanic plastic pollution, that was until the country placed a ban on waste being shipped in. Now, Xiamen is a model example of how to apply effective measures to combat pollution and health issues. Projects included the setup of an oceanic sanitation station over two decades ago. It's changed not only the health and beauty of its seascapes, but also made shipping safer according to publication The Maritime Executive.

"The most fundamental reasons that China and India banned the import of plastic waste are public health concerns and protection of the environment. For example, babies are born with asthma in particular regions of China where the important plastic waste goes to. One of the reasons for the ban in China was this. The same risk threatens our country now," said Recep Karaman to Ruptly.

What's clear in this picture is that the environmental and health risks are slowly moving from East Asia to Turkey. European countries, notably the UK, export their waste to Turkey in large quantities due to strict regulations and restrictions now being applied by countries such as China, Vietnam and India.

Yavuz Eroglu, the president of Turkish Plastics Industry Association, argues that aside from the obvious public and natural risks, the mass imports are also threatening the plastic industry in Turkey too.

"Administrative control [over plastic waste import] is a must. And the plastic industry representatives are applying the biggest pressure on the public administrative bodies... Because if we do not take measures on that, it both damages the environment and devastates the image of the plastic industry in general," Eroglu told Ruptly.

That thought is shared by Sedat Gundogdu at Cukurova University, "Just think about it. If a country cannot collect waste effectively, think about what happens. This imported plastic waste, if it comes to a country like Turkey that cannot collect its own waste effectively, will definitely go to landfill areas."

And those landfill areas are threatening to become wild dumping sites, as was the case in China before its ban. Karaman believes this is already happening in Turkey, and it poses a serious threat to the country's water supplies.

"Also our agricultural fields will have been filled with poisonous chemicals; the water to irrigate those fields will have flowed into our rivers and streams - that will affect the water. Needless to mention the grave health risk this will pose. Our environment faces great damage."

It is a concern for Baran Bozoglu too, who is joining Karaman's push for European exporters take take more responsibility for their waste.

Ruptly requested comment from Turkey's Environment and Urban Planning Ministry, and also the UK's Environment Agency, for official data on the scientific and medical response to Turkey's growing plastic waste imports; so far without reply.

"We cannot allow our country to be the garbage dump of European countries. We know that European nations would not send their recyclable waste to us. They have their own industry, their own companies to make use of that. They send the useless waste to Turkey; waste that poses a threat to public health," Karaman concluded.

Dumped On: Europe’s Hazardous Plastic Fills Turkey16:25
No Account? Sign up!
Description

Spiralling and uncontrolled, Turkey's waste imports have left the country on the verge of an environmental crisis - but there are wider concerns too for almost half a million people.

"The biggest violation of human rights is to threaten people's health and lives. Now European countries commit that crime by sending their plastic waste to our country and to others."

The head of Turkey's Street Waste Collectors Association, Recep Karaman, has warned that Europe's growing waste exports are a disaster waiting to happen.

Karaman stressed to Ruptly that rubbish from Europe poses health risks not only for Turkey but also for other non-European countries, "The logic of European countries is this: let us keep our own environment clean and healthy; we do not care about other countries."

In 2018, China banned plastic waste imports. Since then several other countries have rapidly become giant dumpsites, leaving Turkey as one of the main recipients.

The biennial 2019 World Wildlife Report, which documents the state of the planet - and what it means for humans and nature - has revealed a looming environmental threat in the East Mediterranean. According to the WWF, Turkey's Cilicia region has the highest level of pollution off Europe's southern coastline.

The findings also rank Turkey as the second biggest contributor to mismanaged waste in the region after Egypt. It's claimed Turkey is responsible for 18.9 percent of trash in the Mediterranean. A crucial red flag for the near future, as Beijing continues to enforce strict regulations - and Turkey enters the global top 10 for waste imports.

Footage from earlier this year shows the extent of the plastic waste visible on the seabed along Turkey's southern coast. Scientists are also seen collecting samples of microplastics from the sea for further testing.

Sedat Gundogdu, from the Fisheries Department at Adana's Cukurova University, has been using new data sets to shed light on the harrowing reality that's nesting and slowly suffocating the East Mediterranean.

"Daily plastic flow rate to the beach sediment, I mean, from the sea to the beach, is around 31 kilograms of plastic per day. Per kilometer per day the amount is 31 kilograms of plastic. This is the highest level of plastic flow rate in the Mediterranean," Gundogdu explained to Ruptly.

The United Kingdom leads the way in terms of waste exports to Turkey. According to the UK's Environment Agency, in the first three months of 2018, Britain shipped 27,034 tonnes of waste plastic to Turkey - more than double that for the same period the previous year.

The US has also turned to Turkey, after China banned plastic waste imports. But the strain is threatening the role of rubbish collectors. Around half a million people pick up trash from Turkish streets to earn a living, but the overabundance of refuse in the country is bringing prices down in the waste management industry. Over a two-year period, plastic intake has soared from a reported 159,000 tons to 439,000.

Reportedly, each month, about 10 ships pull into the ports of Istanbul and Adana, carrying about 2,000 tons of cheap US scrap plastic. Most of it comes from Georgia, Charleston, Baltimore and New York and those cargo ships are joined by dozens of others from the UK and other European countries.

"Most of the plastic waste is imported from the United Kingdom. The main countries are the UK, Germany and Italy. Italy is the country that most of the non-recyclable waste comes from. Besides Britain, Germany and Italy, Turkey imports plastic and waste from the United States and Iraq," says Recep Karaman.

The Chairman of Turkey's Chamber of Environmental Engineers, Baran Bozoglu, raised questions to Ruptly about the availability of trustworthy data. "The main problem is transparency. Because we have a real difficulty in getting the information and getting the numbers about plastic waste imports. From which countries, from which European companies, Turkey is receiving more and more waste and where is that waste sent to inside Turkey?."

The perceived lack of transparency is apparently making it difficult to determine the exact origin, quantity and chemical threat of the plastic waste that is flowing into Turkey at an enormous speed.

Recep Karaman, again, says that one of the main reasons China banned the import of plastic waste is the hazardous effects of such refuse on public health. He explained that in the former dumping regions in China, babies are being born with asthma - and warned that if restrictions aren't applied quickly, the same could happen in Turkey

Bio Med Central, a research community for academics, documented the effects of particulate matter (PM) on childhood asthma in Xiamen, China in 2019. It concluded that in the short-term, looking at a period of two-and-a-half years, there was clear evidence to show that child asthma was being exacerbated - based on pediatric records.

The findings showed that exposure to PM10 and PM2.5 had the most significant effects. Xiamen used to be one of China's worst regions for oceanic plastic pollution, that was until the country placed a ban on waste being shipped in. Now, Xiamen is a model example of how to apply effective measures to combat pollution and health issues. Projects included the setup of an oceanic sanitation station over two decades ago. It's changed not only the health and beauty of its seascapes, but also made shipping safer according to publication The Maritime Executive.

"The most fundamental reasons that China and India banned the import of plastic waste are public health concerns and protection of the environment. For example, babies are born with asthma in particular regions of China where the important plastic waste goes to. One of the reasons for the ban in China was this. The same risk threatens our country now," said Recep Karaman to Ruptly.

What's clear in this picture is that the environmental and health risks are slowly moving from East Asia to Turkey. European countries, notably the UK, export their waste to Turkey in large quantities due to strict regulations and restrictions now being applied by countries such as China, Vietnam and India.

Yavuz Eroglu, the president of Turkish Plastics Industry Association, argues that aside from the obvious public and natural risks, the mass imports are also threatening the plastic industry in Turkey too.

"Administrative control [over plastic waste import] is a must. And the plastic industry representatives are applying the biggest pressure on the public administrative bodies... Because if we do not take measures on that, it both damages the environment and devastates the image of the plastic industry in general," Eroglu told Ruptly.

That thought is shared by Sedat Gundogdu at Cukurova University, "Just think about it. If a country cannot collect waste effectively, think about what happens. This imported plastic waste, if it comes to a country like Turkey that cannot collect its own waste effectively, will definitely go to landfill areas."

And those landfill areas are threatening to become wild dumping sites, as was the case in China before its ban. Karaman believes this is already happening in Turkey, and it poses a serious threat to the country's water supplies.

"Also our agricultural fields will have been filled with poisonous chemicals; the water to irrigate those fields will have flowed into our rivers and streams - that will affect the water. Needless to mention the grave health risk this will pose. Our environment faces great damage."

It is a concern for Baran Bozoglu too, who is joining Karaman's push for European exporters take take more responsibility for their waste.

Ruptly requested comment from Turkey's Environment and Urban Planning Ministry, and also the UK's Environment Agency, for official data on the scientific and medical response to Turkey's growing plastic waste imports; so far without reply.

"We cannot allow our country to be the garbage dump of European countries. We know that European nations would not send their recyclable waste to us. They have their own industry, their own companies to make use of that. They send the useless waste to Turkey; waste that poses a threat to public health," Karaman concluded.

Top downloads in last 24 hours
Pool for subscribers only
02:29
UK: Banksy's 'Show me the Monet' fetches nearly $10m, becomes his 2nd most expensive artworkUK: Banksy's 'Show me the Monet' fetches nearly $10m, becomes his 2nd most expensive artwork
October 22, 2020 at 11:01 GMT -00:00
04:40
Mexican garbage collectors entertain locals by wrestling on Chilpancingo streetsMexican garbage collectors entertain locals by wrestling on Chilpancingo streets
October 23, 2020 at 06:10 GMT -00:00
Pool for subscribers only
05:22
USA: Anyone responsible for so many deaths 'should not remain' as president - Biden at final debateUSA: Anyone responsible for so many deaths 'should not remain' as president - Biden at final debate
October 23, 2020 at 02:14 GMT -00:00
Pool for subscribers only
01:39
Switzerland: Libya's warring parties meet for 4th day of talks at the UNSwitzerland: Libya's warring parties meet for 4th day of talks at the UN
October 22, 2020 at 15:35 GMT -00:00
04:21
Switzerland: Libya’s warring sides sign 'countrywide and permanent' ceasefire deal - UNSwitzerland: Libya’s warring sides sign 'countrywide and permanent' ceasefire deal - UN
October 23, 2020 at 11:06 GMT -00:00
04:13
Nigeria: Victims recover from burns and injuries as Abuja protests turn violent *GRAPHIC*Nigeria: Victims recover from burns and injuries as Abuja protests turn violent *GRAPHIC*
October 23, 2020 at 00:34 GMT -00:00
01:56
Nigeria: Destruction at Lagos bus terminal amid anti-SARS protestNigeria: Destruction at Lagos bus terminal amid anti-SARS protest
October 23, 2020 at 13:10 GMT -00:00
02:23
Nigeria: 'We are out here fighting for our rights' - anti-SARS protesters rally despite curfewNigeria: 'We are out here fighting for our rights' - anti-SARS protesters rally despite curfew
October 23, 2020 at 09:36 GMT -00:00
04:41
Nagorno-Karabakh: Ethnic Armenians displaced by shelling speak of ordealNagorno-Karabakh: Ethnic Armenians displaced by shelling speak of ordeal
October 22, 2020 at 12:01 GMT -00:00
Pool for subscribers only
04:27
USA: Donald Trump labels air in China, Russia, India as 'filthy' in climate debateUSA: Donald Trump labels air in China, Russia, India as 'filthy' in climate debate
October 23, 2020 at 05:18 GMT -00:00
05:19
Colombian cliff face hostel offers visitors vertiginous viewsColombian cliff face hostel offers visitors vertiginous views
October 9, 2020 at 14:52 GMT -00:00
Pool for subscribers only
01:15
Israel: Netanyahu announces peace deal with SudanIsrael: Netanyahu announces peace deal with Sudan
October 23, 2020 at 17:56 GMT -00:00
Pool for subscribers only
09:49
Russia: Putin talks Navalny case, Karabakh and impact of epidemic at Valdai Discussion Club Russia: Putin talks Navalny case, Karabakh and impact of epidemic at Valdai Discussion Club
October 22, 2020 at 22:44 GMT -00:00
Pool for subscribers only
01:30
Russia: I got used to accusations from the West, so I don’t care any more - PutinRussia: I got used to accusations from the West, so I don’t care any more - Putin
October 22, 2020 at 18:47 GMT -00:00
01:47
Ireland: Anti-lockdown protesters bring Dublin traffic to standstillIreland: Anti-lockdown protesters bring Dublin traffic to standstill
October 22, 2020 at 18:44 GMT -00:00
Pool for subscribers only
04:12
USA: Trump claims to have done the most for Black community with 'possible exception' of Abe LincolnUSA: Trump claims to have done the most for Black community with 'possible exception' of Abe Lincoln
October 23, 2020 at 04:40 GMT -00:00
02:00
UAE: Nurmagomedov and Gaethje weigh-in ahead of title bout at UFC 254UAE: Nurmagomedov and Gaethje weigh-in ahead of title bout at UFC 254
October 23, 2020 at 10:00 GMT -00:00
Pool for subscribers only
05:12
USA: Any country that interferes in US elections 'will pay a price,' Biden saysUSA: Any country that interferes in US elections 'will pay a price,' Biden says
October 23, 2020 at 03:08 GMT -00:00
02:10
Singapore: Short queues form for iPhone 12 release in striking contrast with past launchesSingapore: Short queues form for iPhone 12 release in striking contrast with past launches
October 23, 2020 at 08:01 GMT -00:00
04:05
Australia: Apple customers queue up for latest iPhone 12 despite COVID measuresAustralia: Apple customers queue up for latest iPhone 12 despite COVID measures
October 23, 2020 at 08:34 GMT -00:00
02:07
Russia: World’s largest nuclear-powered icebreaker officially enters full operation in MurmanskRussia: World’s largest nuclear-powered icebreaker officially enters full operation in Murmansk
October 22, 2020 at 23:15 GMT -00:00
03:11
Serbia: Hundreds protest against Kosovo culture festivalSerbia: Hundreds protest against Kosovo culture festival
October 22, 2020 at 22:52 GMT -00:00
01:59
Ecuador: Hundreds take to Quito streets to protest Moreno's agreement with IMFEcuador: Hundreds take to Quito streets to protest Moreno's agreement with IMF
October 23, 2020 at 07:19 GMT -00:00
Pool for subscribers only
04:25
USA: Biden calls healthcare 'a right' as Trump vows to protect private insuranceUSA: Biden calls healthcare 'a right' as Trump vows to protect private insurance
October 23, 2020 at 04:13 GMT -00:00
03:00
Israel: Business owners and self-employed rally against COVID measures in Tel AvivIsrael: Business owners and self-employed rally against COVID measures in Tel Aviv
October 23, 2020 at 08:41 GMT -00:00
04:06
Coronavirus costumes to be part of Mexico's Day of the Dead celebrationsCoronavirus costumes to be part of Mexico's Day of the Dead celebrations
October 23, 2020 at 18:41 GMT -00:00
View all videos