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... Еще 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