Campaigners find plastic waste from the UK dumped as far away as Turkey

The UK is continuing to dump waste on other countries with supermarket packaging and plastic bags found as far away as Turkey, according to a report.

Investigators for Greenpeace found piles of waste dumped illegally by the roadside, in fields or spilling into waterways in 10 sites dotted around the Adana province in southern Turkey.

Plastic from the UK was found at all of these sites, including evidence of packaging and plastic bags from top UK supermarkets and shops, Greenpeace’s Trashed report said.

Packaging from supermarkets and UK retailers was found© PA Packaging from supermarkets and UK retailers was found

Packaging for a COVID-19 antigen test was among the items found.

The campaign group says more than half of the UK’s plastic waste is going to Turkey and Malaysia, with the equivalent of three-and-a-half Olympic swimming pools of waste sent abroad every day.

Nihan Temiz Atas, biodiversity projects lead from Greenpeace Mediterranean, based in Turkey, said the country is overwhelmed by plastic waste originating from other countries.

“Uncontrolled imports of plastic waste do nothing but increase the problems existing in Turkey’s own recycling system,” she said, revealing that around 241 truckloads of plastic waste arrive in Turkey each day from across Europe.

text: Among the waste found was packaging from a COVID-19 antigen test© PA Among the waste found was packaging from a COVID-19 antigen test

“As far as we can see from the data and the field, we continue to be Europe’s largest plastic waste dump.”

Nina Schrank, senior plastics campaigner at Greenpeace UK, said: “It is appalling to see plastic from UK supermarkets’ shelves ending up 3,000 kilometres away in burning piles on the side of Turkish roads.

“We must stop dumping our plastic waste on other countries. The heart of the problem is overproduction – the UK is the second biggest user of plastic waste per person in the world, behind the US.”

She said the government must “take control” of the problem by banning plastic waste exports and reducing single-use plastic by 50% by 2025.

map: Greenpeace says more than half of the UK's plastic waste goes to Turkey and Malaysia© PA Greenpeace says more than half of the UK’s plastic waste goes to Turkey and Malaysia

The UK sent more than 7,000 metric tons of plastic waste to countries including Malaysia, Vietnam and Indonesia in September 2020 alone, according to nonprofit Last Beach Clean Up.

China originally took much of the UK’s plastic waste but it cracked down on the practice in 2018.

A Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs spokeswoman 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 countries and clamping down on illegal waste exports – including to countries such as Turkey – through tougher controls.

“The UK is a global leader in tackling plastic pollution and our proposals for extended producer responsibility for packaging, a plastic packaging tax and mandatory electronic waste tracking will boost recycling rates, reduce waste and cut crime.”


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