The Government’s Contradiction on Plastics
Plastic pollution is going on to be one of the most important threats for our planet. The government that is trying to reduce the use of plastic, on the one hand, has legislated a law that makes the plastic bags paid, on the other hand it has increased the import of ‘plastic waste’. Meanwhile, the constituents of the sector, who remark the lack of facilities for recycling, and that of education, think that the paid plastic bags will no effect. The opposition criticizes the legislated law with the statement that “the rights of nature do not fit into bag law and cannot be carried by plastic bags at all.”
The Regulations for the Control of Package Waste that prepared by the Ministry of Environment and Urbanization within the harmonization to the EU’s legislations was published in official gazette in December of last year. Moreover, President Erdoğan gave place to make plastic bags paid within the scope environmental protection operations in 100-day Action Plan. The legislation proposal for The Waste Regulation, prepared in this context, has been submitted to the Grand Assembly.
With the legislated “Law of Environment”, plastic bags will be sold to consumers from at least 25 cents from January 1, 2019 on. Shops that will give the plastic bags for no charge will be fined to 10 liras for every square meter of their indoor spaces. Plastic bags that have thickness from 15 to 50 micron will start to be sold to consumers. The thinner bags will be given to consumers for no charge same as before.
USE OF PLASTIC INCREASED BY 11.5 % IN LAST THREE YEARS
Although the law for plastic bag has been legislated in the Grand Assembly, it seems as if the debates on the plastic wastes that damage both human health and the nature will not end. According to the data by the Association of Plastic Industrialists (API-PAGDER in Turkish), the plastic consumption per capita in Turkey increased by 11.5 percent in three years, from 80.8 kilogram in 2015 to 90.1 kilogram in 2017.
United Nations Development Program (UNDP), Turkey Climate Change and Environment Portfolio Manager Nuri Özbağdatlı stated that the 2.2 million tons of 9.6 million tons plastic produced in Turkey are used as package, and only 501 thousands tons of this amount is recycled. Saying that plastics on the one hand make life easier for mankind, on the other have negative effects on the nature, Özbağdatlı, has the opinion that the problem can be overcome by the holistic solutions.
THERE IS NO RECYCLING FACILITY IN 16 PROVINCES
Selçuk Gülsün, the chair of the API told that the contribution of the plastic sector to the national economy was 37.8 billion in the previous year, and the recycle of plastic is important from the environmental and economic aspects. Gülsün stated that there were 1439 firms that has operations in plastic recycling in Turkey and there was no recycling facility in 16 provinces, where approximately 4 million and 200 thousand citizens lived in.
Pointing out that most of the wastes are domestic, produced in daily life, Gülsün said that although there are some individual efforts that appreciate recycling, taking package waste as “garbage” is widespread in society. Gülsün stated that “we should told about the significance of the separation at source and, of recycle to our fellow citizens who throw wastes into same bin, even leave them to environmentdo, and do not separate wastes at source; we should make the citizens from all ages arrive at such a level of conscious and culture.”
‘THIS LAW WILL NOT REDUCE THE USE OF PLASTIC’
Prof. Dr. Nilay Etiler, the chair of Public Health Department of the Turkish Medical Association, making a remark to Halagazeteciyiz.net, thinks that the law legislated by the Grand Assembly enforcing paid plastic bags was a favorable but inadequate step. Saying that “It is a good regulation for reducing the plastic consumption, but also not compatible with the government’s policy of increasing importation of plastic wastes from England”, Etiler asked the Ministry of Environment for the answer of following questions: “Why do we import extra plastic? If we do not recycle enough, what will the paid plastic bags change?”
Pointing out the contradiction between the law legislated and the practice, Etiler has the opinion that this law will not reduce the use of plastic. Criticizing the air pollution caused by the mass use of plastic in industry, Etiler recalled that most of the materials used in daily life are plastic alloyed. She underlined the fact that there is not sufficient technology to recycle the non-garbage wastes and save them to the economy. Etiler specified that the misuse of plastic caused losses, foremost in environment, and in the country economy that is import-dependent in raw materials. She urged that the issue of recycle had to be paid attention for sake of saving the future generation.
‘POLICIES FOR RENTIERS, NOT FOR NATURE’
Stating that the government environment policy is just made up of the commitments that “we will charge fee for the plastic bags; we are building bicycle roads”, Gülizar Biçer Karaca, the Republican People’s Party Denizli Deputy and Vice-Chair In Charge of the Rights of Nature, claimed that the legislation proposal had nothing to do with the nature, was based on rent seeking policies. Making a statement to Halagazeteciyiz.net, Karaca told that “This time the government put the plastic bags into the bag law and is trying to market it with the environment protection claim.” Recalling the fact that the government enacted the regulation for selling the plastic bags to consumers in 2017 with the Regulations for the Control of Package Waste, Karaca uttered that in the regulation it was stated that ‘From 1/1/2019 on, the plastic bags with no charge cannot be provided to users or consumers by the shops, including those make distant sales.’ While there is already such a regulation and it is going to go in effect in January 1, 2019, Karaca criticized the “we will sell the plastic bags, so reduce the waste emission” propagation, and told that “ From the proposal we understand that your problem is actually not wastes, but rents. The rights of nature do not fit into bag law and cannot be carried by plastic bags at all.”
JUST 1 PERCENT OF THE WHOLE WASTE IS RECYCLED
Asserting that Turkey imported 27 thousand and 34 tons of waste from England in first three months of 2018 and this amount was 12 thousand and 22 tons in the same period of last year, Karaca remarked the increase that surpasses 100 percent. Karaca said that “only 1 percent of the whole waste of Turkey is recycled, 99 percent of it is going on to be emitted into the nature, and to harm the nature and human health. She claimed that “Turkey is one of 20 most unsuccessful countries that fail in recycling plastic wastes.”
‘WHY HAS THE PLASTIC WASTE IMPORT INCREASED?’
Ağrı Deputy of the Peoples’ Democratic Party Dirayet Dilan Taşdemir, who has brought the issue to the parliamentary agenda, reminded that countries like China, Malaysia, Vietnam and Poland limited the waste import. Taşdemir suggested that according to the World Plastic Sector Report, with 8.6 million tons of plastic production, Turkey was the sixth country in the world, the second country in Europe in production of plastic. Stating that Turkey’s plastic production corresponds to 2.7 percent of world plastic production, Taşdemir expressed her concerns about the plastic wastes being dangerous and toxic. Demanding an investigation to depict whether the plastic wastes imported had components that included fitalalat, bisfenol and toxics, Taşdemir asked the reason for the increase of waste import, despite the limiting regulations that went effect in 2015.
‘THIS DECISION IS VERY RADICAL’
Assessing the issue from the perspective of the firms, the deputy chairman of the Eagan Region Chamber of Industry (ERCI) Erdoğan Çiçekçi claimed that the plastic bag regulation made things more difficult for the producer firms, and the hypermarkets would not pay thousands of liras to buy tons of plastic bags. Çiçekçi said that “From now on the hypermarkets will not buy plastic bags to give them to consumers; they would save a lot, since the consumers would not pay for plastic bags. Consumers would buy 1 bag instead of 10. Therefore the bag producing firms have reduced the production, they are about to shut down. There are so many people working in there firms. This decision is very radical. The industrialists were licensed once, their production is suddenly being hindered.”
Translation: Aydın Ördek