84.3 million was Turkey’s estimated population in 2020, according to the United Nations. Two years later, there are 86.5 million people, and the waste management system in Turkey must keep pace with the constant growth and urbanization. Like many fast-growing economies, Turkey is searching for ways to improve the waste collection and management, recover more recyclable materials and fight against climate change. Are they succeeding?

How is municipal solid waste handled in Turkey?

Turkish municipalities are the ones to take on the main role of managing the country’s MSW (municipal solid waste) and much of the budget goes to collecting and transporting the waste, meaning that there are way fewer resources for treating the waste to be recovered and put back into the economy. In 2020, according to the Turkish Statistical Institute, there were 1 387 municipalities in Turkey providing waste services that all together collected 32.3 million tonnes of municipal waste. Out of the total waste, only 13.2% ended up in waste recovery facilities, while a staggering 69.4% was sent to controlled landfill sites, 17% to municipal dumping sites and 0.4% was disposed of by other methods such as burning in open areas, burying and dumping into rivers / onto land.  How come only a small percentage of municipal waste gets recovered?


Plastic waste in Turkey: how is plastic management going?

From Europe to Asia, to the USA, or Africa, plastics is in most cases the second waste component, after food and green, that needs to be managed. As to the most recent OECD report, we are producing twice as much plastic waste as 20 years ago, and most of it ends up in landfill, is incinerated, or is leaking into the environment, while only 9% is recycled.

Turkey is no stranger to plastic either. Ever since China banned imported plastics in 2018, Turkey has become the heart of unwanted plastics, being the largest importer of plastic waste in Europe, and that is how the plastic recycling industry in Turkey took off. Adana, located in south-central Turkey, seems to be the place where almost 50 % of Turkey’s plastic waste imports end up, with around 167 licensed plastic recycling facilities. However, even if plastic recycling plants are expanding nationwide, few plastics are meant to be recovered and much of it still ends up in landfills. In fact, in July 2021 the Turkish authorities announced they would ban all polyethylene plastics (used in items such as shampoo and detergent bottles), as the country was getting flooded by EU plastics. In 2020 only, over 200.000 tonnes were shipped from the UK to Turkey according to the Environment Agency. But only 8 days later, following pressure from the local plastic industry, the Turkish government revoked the ban, thus plastic remains one of the greatest country’s challenges.

The cement industry in Turkey: a challenge or an opportunity?

We could say that Turkey’s cement industry is both an opportunity and a challenge considering that it is one of the largest in the world and the first in Europe to also contribute to the country’s employment, exports and infrastructure development. On the other side, the cement industry is a resource-intensive process that requires large amounts of energy and raw materials, resulting in emissions of greenhouse gases, if the production process is not managed properly.

Generally, where management systems are not developed enough to properly handle and recover materials from waste, cement plants have taken it upon themselves to treat municipal solid waste into producing refuse-derived-fuel to replace the use of coal. The practice is also bound to reduce landfilling and CO2 emissions from waste dumped in landfills.

In Turkey, the industry is made of around 50 cement plants and says it is committed to sustainable development and to reducing its carbon footprint, by using alternative fuels from waste (mainly biomass waste) rather than conventional fuels and raw materials in cement production. Investments to increase energy efficiency, use alternative fuels, reduce clinker/cement ratio, and use new and innovative technologies are on the agenda, while emission limits and monitoring were set by the Ministry of Environment and Urbanization.

The Zero Waste project: setting Turkey up for a more circular economy

Up until recently, waste separation at the source was one of the main pain points of the waste management system in Turkey. However, it seems that Turkey it’s on its way to solving the waste separation at source thanks to an initiative launched in 2017, the Zero Waste project, aiming at preventing uncontrolled waste and bringing the country in line with sustainable development principles. The project wants to encourage recycling, and it is headed to prioritize food recovery and other recyclable materials. People will be encouraged to dispose of their waste in separate bins for biodegradable waste to be turned into compost, glass, plastic, metal, paper, textiles and electrical and electronic appliances. It seems that recycling rates since the beginning of the project have gone up, but there are still many waste streams that need to be handled better. Plastic is one of them.

How can waste management and recycling in Turkey improve?

It is clear that when it comes to the waste management industry, Turkey still has a lot of work to do. With better infrastructure, the help of private companies and NGO’s and larger awareness campaigns targeting the ever-growing population, the country can and will be able to grow its recycling rates and benefit from a more sustainable living.


The best screening solutions for more efficient and faster recycling processes in Turkey. Come and meet us at IFAT Eurasia, from the 27th to the 29th of April.

In the past 25 years of experience in the waste management and recycling industry, we have developed mobile and stationary screening solutions to recover the most valuable materials from waste. Over 600 disc screens are treating different materials around the world – from municipal solid waste to organic, plastics, paper and cardboard, commercial and industrial waste, construction and demolitions, RDF, and many others helping manufacturers in having a more efficient and productive recycling process, with a significant impact on revenue, investment and operating costs.

At the Ecostar booth, you will be able to see our machines in action with various materials from different environments and meet with our experts who will provide you with all the information on our patented Dynamic Disc Screening Technology that has revolutionized the screening of waste and recyclable materials.

If you want to book an appointment with one of our managers to have an in-depth discussion about the fitness of our screeners for your specific material fill the form.