Turkey should focus on plastic waste for economy, planet: Expert

The production of raw materials from plastic waste is a key issue Turkey should focus on for its economic well-being and the planet's future, according to a top engineer in Turkey.

Producing new goods for consumers and gaining value from plastic waste at every stage of recycling will notably reduce our country's current account deficit arising from the plastics industry, said Ilkim Yigit, head of the Chamber of Environmental Engineers in the capital, Ankara.

The extraction of raw materials from plastic waste can lower energy consumption by 70%, air pollution by 30% and water pollution by as much as 70%, she argued.

Stressing how significant waste management is to the economy, Yigit said waste which is not separated at its source triggers additional costs and need for labor.

Separation at the source refers to the practice of setting aside post-consumer and household waste materials in households to prevent them from entering the waste stream that is destined for landfills.

Establishing such a waste management system will benefit the economy and help the environment by reducing the imports of materials and recyclable waste.

Recycling in Turkey

Yigit said Turkey currently has 715 waste-sorting and 1,135 recycling facilities, most of them dealing with plastics.

Yigit said data on plastics production can be tracked through an official portal run by the Environment and Urbanization Ministry. According to this portal, around 3-3.5 million tons of plastic were produced in 2018, over half of them plastic bottles, while around 55% of total plastic products in the market are recycled.

Zero Waste Project and people

Turkey's Zero Waste Project, introduced last December, improved waste management and gave a sharper and more effective responsibility to producers and consumers, said Yigit.

Changes in the law, such as charging a fee for shopping bags, applying a deposit fee to drink bottles, and recycling contributions from producers, may lead to positive developments in the environment, she said.

Yigit said the deposit system for bottles will encourage people to recycle waste so that they don't go to waste and also don't pollute nature.

Turkey's Zero Waste Management System aims to cut the volume of non-recyclable waste as well as hold public institutions, organizations, and city governments with populations of more than 250,000 responsible for waste management by 2020.

Plastic waste imports

After China started closing its doors to recyclables, the amount of plastic wastes sent to Turkey from the U.S. and EU states shot up, Yigit said.

The amount of imported plastic waste went from about 160,00 tons in 2016 to nearly 440,000 tons in 2018 -- an increase of around 175%.

In 2017, the current account deficit stemming from these imports topped Euros 52 million, Yigit said.

From this perspective, we would not be surprised to see imported plastic waste reach some 670,000 tons in 2019, and then 1 million tons in 2020.

Source: Anadolu Agency