Turkey, dump for EU and British toxic waste

Greenpeace releases scathing report. Plastic from the EU is poisoning the ground in southern Turkey. In 2020 Turkey imported 660,000 tonnes of waste, up by 13 per cent compared to the previous year. For experts, this is causing “irreversible damage” to the environment.

Istanbul (AsiaNews) – “I send vitamins to Europe, they send us poison,” said İzzeddin Akman, a citrus grower in Adana, speaking to Greenpeace about the huge amount of toxic waste that arrives every day from the European Union and the United Kingdom.

According to experts, the waste is irreparably polluting the ground with plastic and carcinogenic substances like dioxin and furan. Samples from some dumpsites reveal infinitely higher levels of pollution.

In April 2021, the environmental group found that plastic waste imported from the EU and the United Kingdom were dumped and burnt in open air without concern for human health and possible effects on the environment.

According to Bianet, an independent Turkish news agency, Greenpeace Research Laboratories and independent laboratories analysed soil, ash, water and sediment samples from mostly illegal dumpsites and found huge amounts of dioxin and furan, 400,000 times higher than in uncontaminated soil.

This is a record. No other place in ​​Turkey has such high levels of pollutants, many of which are carcinogenic and can be toxic to foetuses, trigger tumours and affect hormone and immune systems.

Soil analyses also revealed the presence of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), 18 different types of metals and metalloids and Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).

The five dumpsites Greenpeace examined are located among the fertile agricultural, livestock and irrigated fields in Adana, a southern province overlooking the eastern Mediterranean.

Illegal burning can cause cancer by mixing into soil, water, air and food chain. What is more such chemical pollutants are very resilient to degradation in the environment, said Dr Kevin Bridgen, a scientist who took part in the analysis.

Nihan Temiz Ataş, the biodiversity project leader of Greenpeace Mediterranean, said the plastic waste imported from European countries causes "irreversible damage" to the environment in Turkey.

According to Eurostat and UK Office for National Statistics figures compiled by Greenpeace, Turkey imported 659,960 tonnes of plastic waste from EU countries and the UK in 2020, up by 13 per cent from the previous year.

This is the equivalent of some 241 lorryloads of plastic waste coming to Turkey from those countries every day. Overall, about 28 per cent of the EU plastic waste exports went to Turkey in 2020.

That same year, the countries that sent the most plastic waste to Turkey were the UK (209,642 tonnes), Belgium (137,071 tonnes), Germany (136,083 tonnes), and the Netherlands (49,496 tonnes).

Turkey's plastic waste imports increased by 196 times between 2004 and 2020.