Sunderland council criticised over Turkish recycling

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Recyclable waste in Sunderland

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Other councils say it is hard to track where their recycling ends up

A city council has been criticised for “damaging” the environment by sending plastic recycling overseas.

Figures obtained by the BBC suggest a growing proportion of plastic from Sunderland is being sent to Turkey.

The city’s Green Party said the authority “haven’t done their homework”, because Turkey had a poor record for managing plastic waste.

The council says it works closely with contractors to ensure materials go for recycling.

But they can change hands several times once they leave the UK, it said.

In the first three months of 2019, 153 tonnes of plastic from Sunderland’s kerbside recycling was sent to Turkey, which was 29% of the total collected.

In 2018, 6% of the total was sent to Turkey while, in 2017, it was 5%.

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Getty Images

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Turkey has facilities to turn waste into electricity but has a poor record on plastic waste

A report earlier this year by the conservation group WWF said plastic recycling exported to Turkey may have ended up in “landfills, incinerators or open dumps”.

A 2015 study put the country among the 20 worst for mismanaging plastic waste.

Plastic from Sunderland has been sent to several other countries in recent years, including Poland, Belgium, Indonesia and Vietnam.

Sunderland Green Party coordinator Rachel Featherstone said “it seems like the council just haven’t done their homework on this”.

“They’re paying lip service to the idea of caring about the environment but again their actions are actually damaging it,” she said.

Council cabinet member for environment and transport Amy Wilson said it “works closely” with its contractors “to ensure that materials go for recycling”.

“The council is awaiting further government guidance on the recycling of plastics and continues to review how it can operate its recycling services,” she said.

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