A Turkish ban on imports of plastic waste that went into place July 2 has already been reversed.
The ban was first announced in May, but on July 12 the Turkish Plastics Industry Foundation (Pagev) announced that rather than a ban, a system of "active control" will be put in place. The new system provides for a "letter of credit" obligation that will be implemented along with a review of the licenses of all 1,350 recycling companies operating in Turkey.
Pagev, a nongovernmental organization, said recyclers could import up to 50 percent of their available capacity, with the remainder being supplied domestically.
Under the new regulation, import volume will be determined on the basis of a recycler's extrusion capacity. Extrusion equipment requires greater investments on the part of the recycling companies, plus the output offers added value compared to baled waste.
Turkey's Ministry of Commerce is also requiring companies to install equipment for more environmentally friendly recycling. In addition, imports will be included in the Mobile Waste Tracking System (MoTAT) used by the Ministry of Environment and Urbanization, allowing waste 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 United Kingdom to Turkey for recycling, of which 94 percent is polyethylene, was being illegally dumped and burned in 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 PE waste. 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 percent in three months in our domestic market," he said.
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 resin 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 438,000 metric tons of PE waste in 2020, the European Union imported approximately 800,000 tonnes of PE 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," Eroğlu said.
"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 said.