Public perception of Turkish society on waste import and related environmental problems

Gündoğdu S.

International Marine Debris Conference, Busan, South Korea, 18 - 24 September 2022, pp.1-2

  • Publication Type: Conference Paper / Summary Text
  • City: Busan
  • Country: South Korea
  • Page Numbers: pp.1-2
  • Çukurova University Affiliated: Yes


Plastic waste was flowing from western countries to China until 2017. However, with a decision taken by China in 2018 called “Green Fence”, the destinations of the plastic waste trade have diversified considerably. Turkey has become one of the new destinations for plastic waste, as China has stopped importing plastic waste, which has become almost impossible to manage. Turkey imported 559 900 tons of plastic waste in 2019, 772 831 tons in 2020 and 685 443 tons In 202. Since 2018, Turkey has become one of the main destinations for plastic waste, mainly of European origin. This situation has brought with it many illegal activities such as illegal dumping and burning of imported plastic waste.
The recycling approach is shown as the main motivation of the waste trade. However, various illegal activities reported in many countries, including Turkey, reveal that this claim is false. It is possible to say that illicit activities, which are the subject of the waste trade, occur in two different ways. One of these is the illegal dumping and burning of imported plastic waste in open areas, and the other is the disposal of plastic waste by burning it as an accident in the warehouses of recycling factories. All these illegal activities create a critical environmental problem beyond being a crime. Therefore, in this sense, the waste trade significantly impacts both the environment and human health. 

This research was carried out to measure the perception of Turkish society on plastic waste imports. Based on the results of this study, the level of public support required for the complete prohibition of waste import was investigated. With the results obtained, data were provided to the interested parties to form various ideas about the direction of the activities and studies to be carried out in the future.

This study was conducted with the support of the GAIA (Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives). A total of 1078 people in 25 cities of Turkey were interviewed about environmental problems and waste imports. The research was carried out using the CATI
(telephone interview) method. Participants scored between 0 (not at all sensitive) and 5 (extremely sensitive) to express their sensitivity to environmental issues. 88.2% of the participants reported being sensitive (4) or extremely sensitive (5). Participants were asked to rank environmental problems according to their importance, and they answered air pollution, climate change and plastic pollution as the three most important problems, respectively. The participants were asked whether they had heard of plastic waste imports and 45% of the participants stated that they had heard of it. 61% of the participants answered the 'Should Turkey import plastic waste?' question as "Absolutely not" and "Should not import". Those who have and do not have knowledge about plastic waste import stated that plastic waste should not be imported at a rate of 66.5% and 56.8%, respectively.

As a result, it is understood that the current level of awareness is not sufficient. Still, most of those aware have a negative perception of plastic waste imports.