ISTANBUL, May 15 (Xinhua) -- Turkey should gradually reduce waste import and decrease it to zero within three to four years by following China's successful path, said Zeki Saribekir, chairman of the Turkish Packaging Manufacturers Association.
"Turkey cannot and should not be the country that imports wastes of the European Union countries the most," Saribekir told Xinhua in a recent interview, referring to the latest figures announced regarding that matter.
Saribekir hailed China's waste import ban initiated at the end of 2017 to prevent foreign inflows of waste products into the country. In 2018, China halted the import of plastic waste as well.
"We must gradually reduce the import of waste, just like what China has done, and reset within three to four years," he said.
Turkey became the country receiving the most plastic waste from Europe in 2020, local media recently reported by citing the latest Greenpeace Mediterranean report.
The NTV broadcaster said the country imported nearly 660,000 tons of plastic waste from the EU countries and Britian in 2020, a 13-percent increase compared with 2019.
Saribekir believes sustainable development goals, circular economy, and European Green Deal should top Turkey's agenda in the upcoming period, and the country should have a "responsible consumption and production perspective" to reduce waste import.
"Everyone must act within the framework of this perspective to catch effective development in the recycling sector," he said.
Environment and Urbanization Minister Murat Kurum recently told reporters that Turkey aims to increase its recycling rate to 35 percent in 2023 and 60 percent in 2035. The current figure is 19 percent.
"We set the waste import quota as 50 percent to support waste collection activities. Thus, we obliged the facilities to meet half of the demand for raw materials from the domestic market," Kurum was quoted as saying by the state-run Anadolu agency.
The minister also underlined that Turkey does not allow any recyclable waste without an identity document to enter the country, so as to sustain the quality and the needed clean raw materials.
According to the ministry, Turkey banned mixed plastic waste imports at the beginning of 2021 and boosted its audits to ensure healthier operation of recycling facilities while introducing new regulations on waste management.