Tag: European Green Deal

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Europe’s Waste Export Dilemma: Environmental Burdens and Global Implications


The surge in waste export from Europe to Turkey, poses serious environmental and ethical dilemmas, necessitating robust international environmental policies. The issue of waste exportation, mainly from European nations to countries like Turkey, presents a pressing environmental and ethical challenge. With China’s decision in 2018 to ban the import of plastic waste, Turkey has become a significant destination for European waste. This shift underscores the global dynamics of waste management as nations grapple with waste surpluses and the complexities of international waste disposal practices.

Historically, China was the world’s largest importer of recyclable materials until its ban, which redirected much of Europe’s waste to other countries, including Turkey and Malaysia. This policy change addressed domestic pollution issues and encouraged China’s waste recycling industries. The ban has had ripple effects across the globe, compelling other nations to rethink their waste management strategies and develop more sustainable practices[1].

In recent years, incidents such as the illegal export of 220 tonnes of waste from the UK to Turkey, which included banned materials like soiled nappies, have highlighted systemic issues in waste management and compliance with international laws[2]. This particular case from 2019 resulted in fines and mandated improvements in waste sorting at UK facilities. However, these actions underscore a broader problem of inadequate oversight and enforcement of waste export regulations. A 2020 Greenpeace report revealed that much of the UK’s plastic waste exported to Turkey was either dumped or burned illegally, posing severe health hazards and environmental pollution [2]. The UK exported significant plastic waste to Turkey in 2023, demonstrating the ongoing dependency on foreign waste management facilities [3].

According to a report in Envirotech Magazine, there has been a significant increase in the amount of UK plastic waste exported for recycling, with over 600,000 tonnes shipped in 2023 alone. More than 25% of this waste was sent to Turkey, highlighting a growing reliance on foreign nations, including non-OECD countries, to manage the UK’s plastic waste. The export of waste has surged by over 500% in the last three years, raising concerns about the environmental impact and the effectiveness of recycling systems in recipient countries [3].

The EU has taken steps to address these challenges through revised waste export rules under the European Green Deal, demonstrating a commitment to reduce waste generation and prevent the shipment of plastic waste to non-OECD countries. Despite these regulations, Turkey, as an OECD country, remains a significant destination for EU waste. This situation presents an opportunity for significant change, raising concerns regarding Turkey’s recycling capacities and the environmental health impacts on its local communities.

Reports from various organisations have illuminated the dire consequences of the current practices. In Turkey, poorly managed waste sites, where much of Europe’s plastic waste ends up, have become environmental hazards. These sites often lack proper controls, leading to widespread pollution and severe health risks for local populations. Activists have used the term “waste colonialism” to describe this dynamic, where developed nations exploit less wealthy countries as dumping grounds for their waste [4]

The magnitude of waste exports to Turkey is significant: in 2021, Turkey imported 14.7 million tonnes of solid waste from EU countries, a threefold increase since 2004, with plastics making up a considerable portion[5]. This statistic highlights Turkey’s role as Europe’s primary waste hub and underscores the urgent need for improved waste management and regulatory practices within Turkey to handle such volumes effectively [6] [7].

This situation necessitates a critical re-evaluation of international waste management policies. Countries involved in waste exports must enforce stricter regulations and improve transparency. Additionally, enhancing recycling technologies and capacities within exporting countries can reduce the need to ship waste abroad, thus mitigating environmental and ethical issues.

The environmental repercussions of waste export are profound, disrupting ecosystems and contravening ethical waste management principles. Strengthening international cooperation and establishing stringent environmental safeguards are essential to ensuring sustainability and justice in waste management.



[1]          https://politeknik.org.tr/turkiye-nasil-avrupanin-cop-merkezi-oldu/

[2]          https://certified-sustainable.co.uk/why-is-the-uks-plastic-waste-being-dumped-in-turkey/

[3]          https://envirotecmagazine.com/2024/01/24/growth-in-plastic-packaging-recycling-being-shipped-abroad-including-non-oecd-countries/

[4]          https://www.gov.uk/government/news/soiled-nappies-among-banned-waste-exported-to-turkey

[5]          https://tr.euronews.com/2022/05/25/ab-ulkelerinin-turkiye-ye-gonderdigi-cop-uc-kat-artarak-14-7-milyon-tona-ulast

[6]          https://www.politico.eu/article/the-turkey-shaped-hole-in-the-eus-new-waste-export-regime/

[7]          https://www.equaltimes.org/turkey-europe-s-rubbish-dump