Plastics Recycling Industry in Turkey
First, we would like to share some information about the plastics recycling industry. As in the rest of the world, the circular economy that will affect the plastics industry of our country based on a paradigm change is developing rapidly. Likewise, our country is oriented in a similar way to this. While the number of licensed enterprises in plastic recycling is 1,039, these enterprises have an impact on the employment of more than 350,000. Our industry having a production capacity of 850.000 thousand tons today will reach 4.3 million tons in 2030, if it maintains its current growth. It is a fact that our industry, which produces as much as a PETKIM and has the potential to produce as much as 5 PETKIMs in the next 10 years, is vital to our country.
The plastics recycling industry imported 436 thousand tons of scrap in 2018, which corresponded to US$ 116 million. A considerable portion of the scrap in question was exported domestically into plastic raw materials and subsequently into finished products, contributing an export revenue of approximately US$ 770 million. In other words, this provides a 7-unit foreign currency inflow in exchange for roughly 1-unit foreign currency outflow. In this context, our country achieved a current surplus of US$ 654 million with the production stemming only from this import. Moreover, when we include the scrap recycled domestically, approximately US$ 1 billion of plastic raw material import is prevented.
The Turkish plastics recycling industry fails to make use of the domestic scrap adequately in terms of quantity, quality and sustainability, depending on the inadequacy of separation at source, the weakness and lack of institutionalization regarding separation and collection systems, the amount of domestic scrap, regardless of its intention to prosper in this field. Most of the packaging wastes in our country are collected off the streets informally, and may neither be processed manually to the satisfactory extent or sorted by type. For these reasons, our industry compensates the raw material deficit by importing scrap due to the increasing demand especially in the foreign markets. This scrap is sorted at the source, classified, of good quality and secured in supply sustainability in accordance with the orders and quality standards of our customers in our export markets. As the zero waste project becomes widespread in our country, the amount of domestic recyclable waste will increase as well as its quality and sustainability. However, the import of recyclable scrap is required in this period to make our domestic facilities operational, expand their market shares, provide employment and acquire skills and standards in value-added products so that we can have a share in the global circular economy.
While it is important for our national plastic industry to gain a foothold in the global circular economy, it is also important to establish policies that consider medium and long-term benefits, not short-term, before it is too late. Because annual plastic consumption that currently amounts to 370 million tons is expected to exceed 1 billion tons in 2050. The global recycling industry, which is still in its infancy today, is expected to meet approximately 60% of this demand in 2050. We see that investments have gained momentum in recent years Especially in countries, such as South Korea, Czechia, Bulgaria, Romania, Macedonia and Serbia, as well as overseas countries, such as Australia and the US, and we closely follow the build-up of considerable capacities in these countries. The growth of the industry in Turkey displays a similar trend. It is estimated that if the current growth of the industry continues, our current account deficit stemming from the import of plastic raw materials will decrease by 35.1 percent in 2030.
IMPACT AREA OF PLASTICS RECYCLING
The recycling industry is one of the most pivotal pillars of zero waste policies all around the world. Because reducing carbon emissions is one of the main objectives. An economic value is created by recycling rather than landfilling or incineration. In addition, the energy used in plastic recycling is one-eighth more efficient than that used in the production of original raw materials. In other words, it is also superior in terms of energy efficiency. However, capacity build-up is essential to improve the zero waste movement that was undertaken in our country to good purpose. For the development of modern facilities in Turkey, we should make further technological investments using the raw materials to be supplied from both domestic and foreign markets. The empowerment of the recycling industry will bring some benefits for the faster and more effective recycling of domestic waste. We should have the capability to export abroad as we recycle waste domestically.
The recycling industry is employment-friendly. The analyzes conducted show that 20 people are employed in the recycling industry against every 1 person employed for solid waste landfilling and incineration. The recycling industry is more important to countries with a young and rapidly growing population, where unemployment constitutes structural problems, such as Turkey. It affects the employment of 1 million in terms of the recycling industry itself and the industries which it supplies goods to. Only 350,000 of these are involved in the plastics industry. Additionally, the industry has the potential to absorb the issue of low skilled labor force.
By their nature, petrochemical investments must accumulate in certain areas to be feasible. The recycling industry, on the other hand, can create employment opportunities and economic contributions in many different geographies due to the advantage of its proximity to local waste sources. In this context, the industry has a positive contribution to the mitigation of regional parities in development.
As is known, primary plastic raw material production in our country is very limited, where the plastics industry meets its needs mostly through imports. Consequently, the industry becomes vulnerable to external shocks, such as fluctuations in exchange rates and “force majeure” events (supply crisis with legal consequences attributed by petrochemical companies to force majeure within the scope of international trade). The recycling industry acts as an anchor that provides the security of supply in the plastics industry by recycling the scraps, either imported or domestic, into raw materials.
The plastic recycling industry will reduce our current deficit by 35.1% by 2030. Because the development of the plastic recycling industry prevents the high foreign exchange loss caused by the import of original raw materials every day.
Especially, the switchover to the circular economic process around the world has increased the foreign demand. One of the leading industries that will be positioned as the exporters of Turkey in the near future is the plastics recycling industry. In addition, the plastic recycling industry has become one of the sources that feed the leading exporting industries, such as automotive, textile and chemistry.
The entire industry in the country should be able to supply the raw materials and inputs, which it can add added value to, both domestically and abroad under the most competitive conditions, and the locality and nationality should be reflected in the added value. The plastics industry that provides intermediate goods to more than 30 industries, especially to automotive, white goods, packaging, agriculture, electrical-electronics and construction industries, uses the on-site recycled raw materials which allow them to substitute the original product and maintain their competitive composition. For example, approximately 200 kilograms of plastic is used in an average car. Making all these products from the primary product will increase the cost approximately twice, and cause our companies to lose the market share in exports in the automotive industry. A second example is the polyester fiber industry. The textile industry that extensively operates on an export-driven basis and uses polyester fiber owes its competitiveness to the recycling industry. To give a third example, approximately 50% of the plastic pipes used in infrastructure investments are made from recycled plastics. If the said pipes are made from primary raw materials, urban transformation project costs will increase considerably.
Our country, which is heavily dependent on imports regarding machinery/equipment used by petrochemical plants and plastics processing industry, seeks to supply substantially from domestic companies when it comes to recycling machines. As recycling investments increase, investments in the domestic machinery technology will grow. For example, Austria generates US$ 1.2 billion per year through exports thanks to a single injection molding machine manufacturer and is the world leader in this field. If the recycling industry is supported, the machinery industry, which acts as a supplier, can attain such a position.
The stipulated use of recycled raw materials is continuously increased within the scope of both legislative regulations and extended producer responsibility practices. Additionally, R&D activities are carried out all over the world to develop new technologies in the recycling industry as part of Horizon 2020 program. The development of the recycling industry in our country will ensure that the plastics industry remains updated on the use of this raw material and the recycling industry on newly developed technologies. In the past, the petrochemical industry missed an important opportunity, and we think that avoiding the same mistakes in relation to the recycling industry is important for the benefit of our country.
Garbage import is prohibited under the Basel Convention, to which our country is a signatory. All imported products are scraps with an economic value that can be recycled, and are the raw material of the recycling industry. The companies holding the Environmental Permit and License Certificate, which import scrap under the Communiqué No. 2019/3, send a notice to the Ministry of Environment and Urbanization 3 (three) business days in advance. After the Ministry performs inspection and reporting at the customs, it issues a letter of conformity to the import in case of no problems with the product or seeks laboratory analysis, if required. Subsequently, the customs officers make full or partial inspections on the yellow and red lines, and then the import process is concluded. In case of inconsistency and doubt, they also have the power to inspect the facility.
As the representative of the companies that produce, pay taxes and provide employment in their country, we demand that this industry contributing more to our national economy in the near future should not be barred from proceeding on their way. Because we believe that the plastic recycling industry will have a say in our national economy today and tomorrow. In this context, we demand that the measures protecting our environment and ensuring the development of our industry should be implemented through the conduct of scientific and rational impact analyses under the Turkish Plastic Recycling Industry Masterplan to be developed by all stakeholders. In this context, we would like to summarize problems and our solution suggestions in three items:
Problem-I: Quantitative inadequacy, poor quality and non-sustainability of recyclable raw materials due to Turkey's failure to provide the adequate quality in waste collection and sorting
Solution-I: Zero waste project should become widespread, the deposit-refund system should be put into action especially regarding packaging wastes, TATs should be inspected in terms of standards and subsidized with incentives for institutionalization (32 million tons of domestic waste, 6-7 million tons of recyclable waste / 5.5 million tons of waste are buried)
Problem-II: Export operations carried out by the plastics recycling industry and over 30 industries fed by, and supply of sustainable raw materials from domestic sources as well as from abroad for the plastic recycling industry to remain competitive against the world
Solution-II: Ensuring the import of clean, recyclable scrap raw materials at competitive prices to meet domestic and international demands, owing to the use of all recyclable domestic wastes.
Problem-III: Perception conflicting with scientific research and truths
Solution-III: Presenting scientific economic data and opportunity cost, disciplining the industry, and increasing inspections and standard controls
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