Why would we send plastic to Turkey?

Adele Lidderdale Eco Orkney plastic waste recycling

Reports have literally been hotting up this week as it has been reported by Greenpeace that the UK has been sending illegal volumes of plastic waste to Turkey to be burned.

Image: Greenpace

Not only is this extremely harmful to the environment but it also undermines the faith that people have put in the fact (and the processes) that their waste has been responsibly reused. After all, that’s what we would reasonably assume happens to the plastic that we recycle. It is extremely frustrating to think that we have all continued to play our part in reducing the impact on the environment and have been let down by the people who we have trusted (and funded) to support good decision making around the environment. Unfortunately events like this can dent faith that people have in the benefits of recycling all together, undermining the benefits of more than just recycling.


It’s extremely confusing at best and it is not up to the individual person to have to constantly question if their waste is being disposed of as they would expect. No one should have to ask if their recycling is being incinerated or burdening  and taking advantage of other countries. We know that the plastic has come from the UK as it literally has the name of our National brands written all over it – Tesco, Lidl, M&S, Asda, Co-op, Sainsburys, Poundland and Spar packages were all found in waste heaps. The UK has rules in place to stop waste being exported to countries that have low rates of recycling. So did the government think it wouldn’t’ get caught?


The top three countries for the UK to send waste too were Turkey (39%), Malaysia (12%) and Poland (7%) all of which have low rates of recycling. The waste being shipped to Turkey Increased by 36% compared with 2019. Over half of the waste shipped to Turkey was Mixed Plastics which is almost impossible to recycle.


It is still worthwhile recycling other streams of waste:

  • Glass can easily be reused or reprocessed for other uses
  • Paper is compostable and easily recyclable
  • Clothes can be re-worn or repurposed
  • Food waste, try and find a composter for appropriate food waste here or use your local authorities food waste collection. One third of waste in UK bins comes from food and if it goes to landfill if creates additional greenhouse gas emissions
  • Garden waste can be repurposed or composted and many local recycling centres will accept this too.
  • Avoid, where possible, the purchase of plastic


Scotland is looking at way to increase the Circular Economy and this can have great effects on reducing the amount of new resource that we need to make our goods.


Everything from:

  • coffee cups,
  • clothes,
  • sunglasses,
  • plant pots and more,


 are being made from reprocessed materials. Items and even waste that have been used before. This means they never have to go in the bin and we don’t have to take something from the planet that we aren’t sure we can put back. Place importance on repairing, reusing and cutting out non-renewable materials.


Where at all possible try and reduce how much plastic you buy. The less we buy the less demand there should be and the amount of plastic made should decrease.

Always remember that the purchasing system across the globe relies on you buying goods – it’s not your fault or a reflection on you in any way, it is the way the economic system currently works. If you’ve read this you are doing great! Well done.





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