What impact has the COVID-19 pandemic had on the industry?
Of course, the pandemic and all the restrictions associated with it have affected the Turkish economy as much as the economies of other countries. However, I feel that we have adapted to the situation and learned the correct lessons from it.
I can say that the domestic sector has focused on improving the quality of its products and not just on increasing sales volumes.
Over the last two years, a lot of Turkish plastic products have gone to the defence industry, and we have to remember that we have one of the largest defence industries in this part of the world. Turkey has, in a very short period of time, gone from being a country that buys armaments (including often used armaments) to becoming one of the world leaders in the production of advanced military and special technology.
Today, most of Turkey's arms manufacturers use highly advanced plastic products produced by the indigenous processing sector. In addition, during the pandemic, a large cluster of manufacturers of medical plastic products has emerged.
In the packaging industry, on the other hand, we have seen an increase in the number of manufacturers producing barrier packaging.
It has to be said that the increased cooperation with the defence industry, the medical industry and the packaging industry has definitely increased the added value of the Turkish plastics processing industry. And although the global economic situation is not good at the moment, after all, we see signs of recession in the EU and the US, the Turkish plastics industry is functioning normally and without disruption.
As far as we are concerned, in recent years textiles came first, followed by the automotive industry and then chemical products. We are now seeing a change in these trends. Chemicals are in first place, with plastics accounting for 35%, automotive is in second place and the textile industry has dropped to third place.
Please tell me what problems Turkish plastics processors are facing?
One of the biggest issues in the Turkish plastics processing industry is the lack of skilled labour. This is a global problem for the entire Turkish industry. Turkey is growing its economy dynamically, but it does not have enough skilled workers.
If you don't have a skilled workforce, you can of course still produce, but the quality of the products and their degree of technological advancement will be low. If, on the other hand, you want to produce high-value-added products, you must have a highly skilled workforce.
The industry association PAGEV, as the leading organisation for our sector, is trying to respond to these ills.
We have built two vocational schools. The PAGEV school in Küçükçekmece can accommodate 1,500 students, while the school in Gebze can accommodate 500. Every year there are more and more graduates - technicians in the field of plastics processing, so as an industry we are trying to solve the shortage of skilled labour by developing the vocational education system.
Let me add that this is an issue that also concerns processors in Poland. And in our country, too, industry organisations are looking for a solution.
So it looks like it is an international problem (laughs). The lack of adequate infrastructure is also a major barrier. In Turkey, it is extremely difficult to find land for industrial investment because most of the land is used for agriculture and industrial zones cannot be built there. PAGEV is trying to help solve this issue by creating two organised industrial sites in Turkey - one in the Gebze area, on the Asian side, where 143 large plastics companies are currently based, and another in the European part of Turkey.
An important and current issue both in Turkey and worldwide is the image of the plastics industry and of plastics themselves. Just saying that plastic should not be thrown away after use is not the solution to the problem. We need to change people's mindset and show them that plastic products are not meant to pollute nature, but to be disposed of.
We need to do even more. To this end, PAGCEV was founded is a non-profit organisation set up by PAGEV to ensure the separate collection of packaging waste and its recycling. Since 2014, PAGÇEV has been an authorised Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning institution for the recycling of all types of packaging waste. PAGÇEV is responsible for the recycling and certification of packaging used by manufacturers or packaged products, and works with municipalities to ensure the separate collection of packaging waste and its recycling. PAGÇEV also conducts education and awareness-raising activities on packaging waste and recycling and campaigns to promote recycling.