Deadly chemicals found in UK plastic dumpsites with toxic waste at five sites in Turkey

An investigation by Greenpeace found that five sites in southern Turkey are contaminated with hazardous chemical pollutants following the illegal dumping and open burning of imported plastic waste

Plastic waste from the UK was found in Adana, Turkey (

Image: © Caner Ozkan / Greenpeace)

Britain’s dumping of toxic plastic waste has been exposed after sites in Turkey were found to be highly contaminated with chemicals.

Greenpeace found hazardous chemical pollutants in five areas in the south of the country after the illegal dumping and burning of imported rubbish.

UK grocery packaging was found dumped in the same areas by investigators last year.

Levels of toxic chemicals in the soil and ash at some of these locations are thousands of times higher than control sites.

The UK exported 129,718 tons of waste plastic to Turkey from January to November, the latest data available.

The volume temporarily fell in May following a Greenpeace report, but has risen month on month since July.

Tesco plastic waste was also found
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Image:

© Caner Ozkan / Greenpeace)

November’s export total of 4,126 tonnes was almost 10 times the July total of 484 tonnes.

Dr Kevin Brigden, one of the scientists who carried out the analysis, said: “Many of the pollutants found are highly resistant to breaking down in the environment and can build up in animals and humans over time.”

The level of dioxins and furans at one site was the highest ever reported in soil in Turkey – 400,000 times the control sample. They can be toxic to fetuses, cause premature births, trigger tumours, cause skin lesions and affect hormones and immune systems.

A Greenpeace campaigner investigates a waste pile
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Image:

© Caner Ozkan / Greenpeace)

At one location the concentration of polychlorinated biphenyls in soil was 30,000 times higher than the control sample. Exposure to PCBs can harm embryos and fetuses and hormones.

They can also be transferred from mothers to babies during breastfeeding.

Metals and metalloids including cadmium, classified as carcinogenic, and lead, which can cause irreversible damage to the nervous system, were also found.

Soil samples taken in Turkey
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Image:

© IHSAN YALCIN / Greenpeace)

In four locations were carcinogenic chlorinated benzene compounds.

Megan Randles, of Greenpeace UK, said: “This is the toxic fingerprint of Britain’s pattern of dumping plastic waste out of sight and out of mind.”

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