Recycling industry holds promise for Türkiye: Sector group chief

Türkiye’s plastic waste imports total $127.7M in 2020, while exports of recycled products total $1.21B, says Fatih Eren

There will be major opportunities for Türkiye in the recycling industry over the next five years, according to the head of a sectoral association.

Fatih Eren, chairman of Türkiye’s Recyclers Association (Gekader), told Anadolu Agency that the country has become a central destination for recyclables, instead of the Far East and China.

International commercial relations have shifted in recent years amid the coronavirus pandemic as trade with China suffered due to disruptions, with Türkiye emerging as an important alternative for demand and supply.

“With its geographical location, our country is a logistics country, not only for recycling, but also in many (other) sectors,” said Eren.

He underlined that on this matter, Türkiye is ahead of some European countries in terms of technology, noting that textile giants, for example, preferred recycled yarns made in the country.

Underlining the continued expansion of the Turkish recycling sector, he noted that it meets 30% of the country’s plastic raw material needs.

“If the recycling sector cannot provide this 30%, an additional 30% of imports will be needed,” he added, explaining that this would hurt Türkiye’s current account balance. “So, the recycling sector must continue to work quickly and strongly.”

In what will likely help stave off prospects of increased imports in this sector, domestic recycling is also becoming more widespread, said Eren, who cited the efforts of the Ministry of Environment, Urbanization and Climate Change.

Waste and separation facilities can be found in almost all municipalities across the nation and households also help by separating out their recyclable waste, though this is still below the desired level, he said.

Touching on Türkiye’s plastic waste imports, he said that while they totaled $127.7 million in 2020, exports of recycled plastic products amounted to $1.21 billion.

The plastic recycling industry can help further reduce the current account deficit for plastic raw materials by 36% before 2030, he added. “The global market size of the plastics recycling industry is expected to reach $900 billion in 2050. If Türkiye continues its current growth in this field, its recycling sector will be $3.2 billion in size in 2025 and $63 billion in 2050.”

He elaborated that at its current size, the industry employs around 1 million people in Türkiye.

In 2020, Türkiye’s recycling facilities processed 127 million tons of waste, while 49.1 million tons were recycled, contributing $6 billion to the Turkish economy, said Eren.

The country imported 14.7 million tons of recyclable waste in 2021 — 12.7 million tons of metal, 1.2 million tons of paper, 685,000 tons of plastic, and 55,000 tons of glass, he added, with the sector’s countrywide economic contributions totaling $7.5 billion last year as it processed waste worth $200 million to make exports worth $1.2 billion.

In terms of recyclable waste from inside the country, he said, Turkish households recycled around 28.6 million tons in 2020, though this is far short of production.

Eren also underlined the need to expand recycling worldwide.

“It is obvious that the increase in production costs, carbon emissions, and increasing raw material prices threaten the future of the world.”