Ateş Alpar – Adana, Turkey
Workers face difficult conditions in a ten-year-old plastic recycling factory in a small neighbourhood in Adana’s Seyhan district in Turkey, along the Mediterranean coast.
They select plastic that has been extracted from garbage and transfer it into recycling bins. Hygiene requirements are not checked or promoted and working conditions are harsh.
People work seven days a week, from 9 am to 5 pm, with one hour lunch break in-between.
Turkey has become one of the major new European plastic waste destinations. The amount of plastic waste that has been sent to Turkey from European countries has increased 173-fold since 2004.
By 2019, Turkey had become a major destination for plastic waste exports and it imported 582,296 tonnes of plastic waste from Europe.
The World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF) released a report about plastic waste and concluded that it posed a major threat to marine life in the Mediterranean Sea. In the report, the WWF stated that 95% of the waste in the Mediterranean is plastic and various species are eating this plastic waste: ”In the Mediterranean Sea, 134 species are victims of plastic ingestion. In the Mediterranean, microplastics reach record levels of concentration: 1.25 million fragments per km2, almost four times the level of one of the five ‘plastic islands”’.
One of the workers at the factory stated: “We are currently the world’s largest importer of plastic waste and there is so much money in this sector, but we as workers do not earn enough money from this. The real winners are the bosses. We get very low wages”.
The workers in the factory are mainly women. They state that working conditions are very harsh and unsafe.
Although it is a place where hygiene restrictions should be implemented, there is almost no protection and no precautionary measures provided to the workers in the factory.
Workers mostly complain about working hard constantly, living under harsh conditions and living in poverty.
Many workers stated they had to work to survive and had to leave school to work. Many stated how desperately they felt about the future.