Turkey moves to ramp up domestic recycling

A reduction in imports of waste materials for recycling to Turkey is expected after the country’s environment minister said the country’s recycling sector is to concentrate more on using its “own resources”.

It is understood that Turkey is planning to introduce legislation making it compulsory for the nation’s recovery sector to meet half its material needs from the domestic market.

In an announcement today (7 September), Murat Kurum, who has been the minister for environment and urban planning since 2018, said: “We will prevent the import of high amounts of waste and create employment opportunities for our thousands of employees in the sector with the latest regulation that will enable us to meet the raw material needs of our recycling sector from our own resources.”

Murat Kurum, minister for the environment, Turkey

Mr Kurum announced measures on 31 August which would eventually reduce the quota of imported waste the Turkish recovery sector could use to just 50%.

At the time, he said: “We are implementing regulation that will make it compulsory to meet half of the annual raw material need of our recycling sector from the domestic market in order to minimise the damage that wastes cause to nature.”


Further details of some of the requirements emerged this afternoon. According to consultancy 360 Environmental, any waste leaving the country of export after last Thursday will be subject to new rules.

Zero Waste

The crackdown on the import of waste has been mooted as part of Turkey’s Zero Waste project, launched in 2017 and the personal project of First Lady Emine Erdoğan. The Turkish environment ministry says the use of single-use plastic bags in the country has dropped by 80% thanks to the project.

However, recyclers in Turkey who depend on material from the UK and other European nations, have assured letsrecycle.com that the level of recycling within Turkey is very low and that while the intention is to collect more material locally, there will still be a need for imports well into the future.

“I think they would have to do so in a phased manner”

Pankaj Chowdhary


From a UK perspective, businesses were not surprised at the desire by Turkey to use more material collected locally.

Pankaj Chowdhary is managing director of Ekman Recycling Limited and an expert on trade to Asia. He told letsrecycle.com: “I wouldn’t be surprised if some kind of restriction was introduced. My question would be, can they afford to do it straight away and how do they implement it?

“Turkish production is expanding massively and their domestic collections are also expanding massively. However, if they do introduce restrictions, I think they would have to do so in a phased manner.”

Mr Chowdhary suggested Turkey may follow a similar route to China, which since 2017 has introduced a series of policies aimed at reducing the import of foreign waste. In July it was confirmed that China would ban the import of solid waste which covers recycling, from 2021. While similar restrictions are yet to be introduced in Indonesia, they are anticipated in the Southeast Asian country soon, Mr Chowdhary added.

Turkey has generally low levels of recycling: pictured sorting plastics in Izmir (picture: Shutterstock)

Mr Chowdhary said that if Turkey was to restrict the import of waste, the first measure he expected would be a ban on mixed paper, given the level of contamination present in some imports to the country.


Andrew Perkins is head of paper at recyclable materials exporter Clearpoint Recycling. Clearpoint exports plastics to Turkey and is in talks to find an arrangement for fibre of a high standard.

Mr Perkins told letsrecycle.com there was a huge incentive for governments around the world to encourage local recycling as much as possible. He said: “The UK has had enough warnings and actions. It is becoming increasingly difficult to find a world market for surplus tonnages.

“Poorer quality material will find it harder and harder to find a home as no-one wants to be the dumping ground of the world.”

However, Mr Perkins added that Clearpoint anticipated growth in its plastic exports to Turkey, saying the company found it had the right quality material wanted by Turkish recyclers. And he emphasised that Turkey remained an attractive prospect for exporters of good quality material.


According to the EU agency Eurostat, Turkey is the largest destination for waste (recyclables) exported from the European Union, with a volume of around 11.4 million tonnes in 2019.

With 9.9 million tonnes, Turkey received almost two thirds (63%) of the ferrous scrap metal exported from the EU.

Turkey also imported 700,000 tonnes of paper waste from the EU, which represents 12% of the material exported by the bloc.


Leave a Reply

The Blog Box

Other Publications from
The Environment Media Group

Back to top