The Turkish ban on imports of plastic waste, that took force on 2 July after being announced in May, has been lifted, according to a 12 July statement released by Pagev. Instead, a system of ‘active control’ will be put in place, under which, among other things, a ‘letter of credit’ obligation will be implemented and the licenses of all 1350 recycling companies operating in Turkey will be reviewed.
According to Pagev, the nongovernmental organisation in Turkey focussing on the plastics industry, previously, recyclers could import up to 50 percent of their available crushing capacity, with the remainder capacity being supplied domestically.
Under the new regulation, the import rate will be determined on the basis of a recycler's heat treatment (extrusion) capacity. Extrusion equipment requires greater investments on the part of the recycling companies, plus the output offers added value compared to crushed waste.
The Ministry of Commerce is also requiring companies to install machinery and equipment for more environmentally-friendly recycling. Moreover, imported plastic waste will be included in the Mobile Waste Tracking System (MoTAT) used by the Ministry of Environment and Urbanisation, allowing imported wastes to be tracked from the port to the factory via a chip-based tracking system.
The ban was announced following a Greenpeace report alleging that plastic waste being sent from the UK to Turkey for recycling , of which 94% is polyethylene plastic, was being illegally dumped and burned in areas of southern Turkey.
Pagev President Yavuz Eroğlu said he held a series of meetings with government ministers to draft the directive containing the new regulations on the import of polyethylene waste after which the ban was lifted. The new legislation aims to reduce abuse and will decrease the number of companies importing waste. “License rehabilitation to be carried out in the plastic recycling sector is important. The letter of credit obligation will ensure that companies that can do their job properly and have the capacity and equipment will continue on their way,” he said.
He also implied that the timing of the ban and its focus on PE was questionable, noting that it was ‘right after the Turkish plastics industry decided to boycott and turn to recycled raw materials’.
“With our boycott, we stopped the purchase of raw materials from petrochemical plants and thus due to reduced demand and the increased preference for recycled raw materials, original raw material prices decreased by a minimum of 30% in 3 months in our domestic market.”
As a result of the ban, the decline in the price of virgin PE came to a halt. Unable to find recycled raw materials, processors were forced to buy virgin materials at three times the cost of what they would have paid for recycled PE. He calculated that the total cost of the ban had been $547 million. “The unfortunate implication of this cost increase on the consumer was inflation,” he observed.
In addition, while Turkey imported a total of 438 thousand tons of polyethylene waste in 2020, the EU imported approximately 800 thousand tons of polyethylene waste, twice the rate of Turkey.
“Wastes that are a part of Circular Economy have become valuable raw materials all over the world. As in the paper and metal industry, Turkey should be importing plastic waste without any problems. It is of course very important that Turkey will implement new regulations with effective inspection mechanisms in line with the EU's waste import processes. With the new regulation, Turkey will both provide the recycling raw material needed by the industry with plastic waste imports, and will also eliminate environmental risks with active control,” Eroğlu concluded.