A waste management company has distanced itself from any wrongdoing after a BBC investigation revealed some UK recyclables were being dumped and burned on roadsides in Turkey.

Veolia, which operates multiple waste management centres in the UK, said any overseas exports of sorted recyclables by the company was done with a “stringent duty of care”.

It comes after an investigation by the BBC revealed that some plastic waste from the UK intended for recycling and export to Turkey was instead being dumped and burned off by “smaller, backstreet” facilities there.

Veolia, one of the largest waste management companies in the UK, said they undertook stringent audits to ensure all of the products it exports are recycled as expected.

However, they acknowledged there was “a small number of unscrupulous or illegal operators” which give a “bad impression of the UK industry”.

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“Veolia uses UK outlets where they are available, such as our HDPE milk bottle reprocessing plant in East London, but where overseas processing is required Veolia only exports finished grades such as sorted PET bottles and trays and we follow a stringent duty of care audit to ensure it goes to genuine outlets that recycle it into new products,” the spokesperson said.

“Unfortunately there remains a small number of unscrupulous or illegal operators exporting mixed plastics that may not have been properly sorted and therefore not all be recyclable.

"This gives a bad impression of the UK industry, which is trying its hardest to recycle more.

“Recycling has a vital role to play in the green economy that is needed to protect the future of our planet.”


The authority also publishes a summary of the destinations of its waste, with the most recent update in August 2019 showing that 13 per cent of plastic bottles from the borough go to Turkey for processing and recycling.

Another seven per cent of bottles go to Romania, while the largest share – 44 per cent –goes to facilities in the UK including at Devon, Lincolnshire, Wales and Kent.

Turkey takes more UK plastic waste than any other country, with more than 160,000 tonnes sent there last year.

The BBC’s investigation, published last month, found some waste being exported from the UK wasn’t being sorted properly, meaning it couldn’t be recycled.

The BBC said some “smaller, backstreet” recycling facilities in Turkey were instead dumped and burning off rubbish.

Veolia also operate a range of waste, recycling, treatment and disposal facilities in and around London, including its Greenwich Materials Recovery Facility and the Southwark Integrated Waste Management Facility.

List of London authorities which have contracts with Veolia:

  • Bexley
  • ​Brent
  • Bromley
  • Camden
  • City of Westminster
  • Croydon
  • Haringey
  • Kingston-Upon-Thames
  • ​​Lambeth
  • ​Merton
  • Richmond-Upon-Thames
  • Southwark
  • ​Sutton
  • Tower Hamlets

They also have a contract with Watford Borough Council which falls under the London Region.