Turkey: Europe’s largest ‘waste bin’

turkey waste
turkey waste
Image credit: EBRD

The European Union exported some 11.4 million tonnes of waste to Turkey in 2019, making it the continent’s largest waste destination, based on the latest figures released by Eurostat.

According to the report, the EU’s second largest export destination for waste was India, which received almost 2.9 million tonnes of waste from the EU in 2019, followed by the United Kingdom (1.9 million tonnes), Switzerland (1.6 million tonnes) and Norway (1.5 million tonnes).

Recent years have seen Indonesia grow into a destination for EU waste, with volumes increasing from 0.4 million tonnes in 2016 to 1.3 million tonnes in 2019.

Meanwhile, the Eurostat report points to a decline in EU exports of waste to China which have fallen from a peak of 10.1 million tonnes in 2009 to 1.2 million tonnes in 2019.

Exports of waste from the European Union (EU) of 27 Member States to non-EU countries have increased by two thirds (+66%) since 2004, but remained stable from 2018 to 2019. In 2019, the EU exports of waste reached 31.0 million tonnes, with a value of EUR 13.4 billion.

In contrast, imports of waste from non-EU countries have fallen both in the long and short term. In 2019, these imports stood at 16.7 million tonnes in 2019, down 2% on 2018 and -6% on 2004. The waste imported from non-EU countries amounted to EUR 12.8 billion in 2019.

waste bin

The EU also receives waste from countries outside the EU. The largest volume of waste was imported from the United Kingdom, amounting to 4.0 million tonnes in 2019. This was a fall of close to 12% from 2018, down to the lowest level since recording started in 2004.

Norway was the second largest source of waste imported to the EU, with the volume rising by 5% to 3.1 million tonnes in 2019. Switzerland followed with 2.4 million tonnes, down -3% compared to 2018, the United States with 1.6 million (-2%) and Russia with 1.2 million (+1%).

In 2019, exports of ferrous metals waste (such as iron scraps and waste from different steels) from the EU amounted to 15.6 million tonnes, accounting for a half (50%) of all waste exports. The main destination was Turkey; with 9.9 million tonnes, Turkey received almost two thirds (63%) of the ferrous metal waste exported from the EU. In contrast, the EU imported 4.2 million tonnes of ferrous metal waste, with almost a third (32%) coming from the United Kingdom.

Although at a far lower level, considerable amounts of paper waste were also exported from the EU. The 5.8 million tonnes exported accounted for close to one fifth (19%) of the EU’s waste exports in 2019. 1.1 million tonnes (19%) of this were destined for India and 0.7 million tonnes (12%) for Turkey.

However, there were also 2.5 million tonnes of paper waste imported to the EU, with the largest amount (1.1 million tonnes, or 43%) arriving from the United Kingdom.

*Source: Eurostat