A fee on plastic carrier bags is now in effect in Turkey
A new environmental law stipulating a fee of TRY 0.25 (EUR 0.05) for plastic carrier bags came into force in Turkey on 1 January 2019. Turkish plastics industry association PAGEV (Istanbul; www.pagev.net.tr) reacted with criticism, stating that the domestic plastics industry provides a substantial and steady contribution to the economy, and legislation targeting plastics without scientific data to back it up should be avoided. In mid-January, the association held a meeting to discuss the impacts of the new law and offer solutions for the transition period.
PAGEV president Yavuz Eroğlu said the Turkish plastics industry is as committed to environmental protection as its European competitors, but having the same legal regulations as the EU is a requirement for its competitiveness, contribution to the economy and continued existence. While the new Turkish regulation is based on EU criteria, the scope and exemptions that apply to the European plastics industry have not been taken into consideration. According to PAGEV, the current legislation is equivalent to a “firing decree” for 2,000 companies in Turkey that produce plastic carrier bags and provide employment to 20,000 people. This figure does not include companies that sell or supply raw materials and machinery.
The result of the meeting was a call for transparent and reasonable legislation comparable to that of the EU. PAGEV said that not meeting this demand would lead to difficulties for the entire industry with thousands unemployed due to decreased production and Turkish companies losing ground on both the domestic and international markets.
PAGEV calls for crucial amendments to the new regulations
Among others, PAGEV says the double-layer thickness of 15 μm for plastic carrier bags specified in the legislation is too thin to be practical and should be changed to 15 μm for one layer, thereby conforming to EU regulations. The association also recommends extending the transition period for current stock to the end of 2019. This would, for example, prevent the return of plastic bags that do not meet the thickness requirements of the new legislation to manufacturers already facing decreasing production volume. The association would also like to see plastic bags with a thickness of over 50 μm explicitly excluded from the obligatory fee as well as bags provided by stores with less than 200 m².
Another issue is the lack of regulation for bioplastics – EU legislation, says PAGEV, excludes biopolymers that decompose within six months. Excluding plastic carrier bags made of biodegradable materials from the fee would encourage the use of bioplastics.
Funding to support affected companies in transition period
According to PAGEV, the rapid implementation of the new legislation is already causing substantial difficulties for the Turkish plastics industry. With production projected to be down by at least 50%, plastic bag producers will have trouble paying off investments. The association calls for a transformation process towards alternative plastic carrier bag production that is supported by the Turkish plastics industry instead of causing it serious harm.
PAGEV points to Morocco – see PIEWeb of 24.07.2017 – where changes were implemented with consideration for the domestic plastics industry. Here, a special fund was created with a certain amount of money earned from the plastic carrier bag fee. This fund then supported the affected companies in transitioning. The association suggests that various industry and government organisations create such a support package for Turkish plastic bag producers, which would include grants, longer periods for conversion and a structuring of existing debts.
Reference:PIE Plastic Information Europe