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Turkey gets tough on street waste pickers

Turkey – Countless individuals can be seen pulling heavy carts with cardboard, plastics and other materials through the streets of Istanbul. But Turkey has recently launched new legislation in the hope of preventing such unlicensed entrepreneurs from benefiting from the abundant stream of waste materials.

The ministry of environment and urban planning has started fining paper recyclers 140 000 lira (US$ 47 000) for purchasing material from street collectors, but the move has received so much criticism since it was introduced last month that government officials are debating whether to continue with legislation that has sent a shock wave of anxiety through the estimated 500 000 individuals who make a living by collecting recyclables off the street and from public waste bins.

‘More paper is being collected than necessary,’ laments urban waste collector Aziz Özden, who collects up to 2 tonnes of paper per day together with his crew. ‘In Istanbul alone, 140 000 to 150 000 tonnes of paper are collected every month. It’s at the point where it could be exported to other countries.’

He believes the ministry wants to limit the influence of private players so the potentially lucrative recycling sector can be overseen by a select few ‘pro-government’ companies close to the ruling Justice and Development Party.

Recycling Labourers Association president Dincer Mendillioğlu says the ‘well-intentioned’ regulation has neglected to take the collectors’ opinions into account. In response to the recent backlash, however, officials have reached out to him and are now working on a ‘better solution’, he adds.

Source: Today’s Zaman

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