Plastic waste in Turkey, a business as harmful as it is profitable

Plastic waste in a wild dump near the Alibeykoy dam, on the outskirts of Istanbul, Wednesday, May 19, 2021. AP - Mucahit Yapici

Text by: RFI Follow

1 min

On the occasion of the world day without plastic bags, this Sunday, July 3, destination Turkey, the largest importer of plastic waste in the world.


Read more

With our correspondent in Istanbul


Anne Andlauer

Since China, in 2018, stopped its imports of plastic waste, those of Turkey have exploded, and especially from Europe.

Last year, every month, 43,000 tonnes of this waste entered the country, ten times more than three years earlier.

The country recycles them to create raw materials useful to its economy.

► To read also: How European plastic waste invaded Turkey

Multiplication of wild dumps, microplastics in rivers… This very lucrative trade has harmful consequences on the environment.

Sedat Gündogdu, a researcher at Çukurova University in Adana, denounces a system that is as harmful to the environment as it is profitable for its private actors.


It happens more and more that importing companies burn their plastics which are ultimately not recyclable.

And yet, it remains a very lucrative business!

Because the income that these companies derive from the sale of the plastics that they have been able to recycle very largely cover the cost of their imports

, he notes.

But, continues Sedat Gündogdu, this system remains largely outside the control of the state.

And how could it be otherwise?


There is no follow-up, no transparency, no planning.

What China, the surveillance state par excellence, has failed to control, no country can control.

The only way out is to ban imports

 ,” he said.

In May 2021, Turkey banned the import of plastic waste, before giving up two months later, under pressure from recycling sector lobbies.


Receive all the international news directly in your mailbox

I subscribe

Follow all the international news by downloading the RFI application


  • Turkey

  • Environment