An estimated 5 trillion plastic bags are used worldwide every year!

This is a main contributor to maritime pollution as some 8 million tons of plastic, including bags, are dumped into the ocean every year killing marine life and becoming part of the human food chain.

No more free plastic bags as new law comes into force

A new environmental law that came into force on Monday makes the sale of plastic bags in Turkey mandatory instead of being given out free.

From next year, plastic bags handed out to customers at the counters in supermarkets and shopping malls will be sold for TL 0.25, a price that will be increased once every year. As yet, no date has been set for this to begin.

A compulsory charge for plastic bags is considered a revolutionary change by Turkish environmental officials who say each citizen uses an average of 440 plastic bags a year in the country of nearly 80 million people.

“We use a plastic bag for an average of 12 minutes. It becomes trash 12 minutes later.” – Oya Güzel, of the Mind Your Waste (Çöpüne Sahip Çık) foundation.

Container-deposits

Businesses will also have to set up container-deposit places for the return of bottles and similar materials and will be mandatory from January 2021.

The government will charge a fine of TL 10 for every square meter of the responsible shop if they hand out plastic bags for free. Similarly, producers of bottles, plastic packaging without deposits will face fines.

The landmark decision will contribute to Turkey’s efforts against plastic pollution and zero waste campaign that aims to further promote recycling.

The new law also brings fines for owners of motor vehicles who do not have exhaust gas emission measures. It also increases fines for incorrect storage of fuels and for illegal dumping of such materials.

Slow recycler Turkey seeks better uses for its trash

A late contributor to global recycling efforts, Turkey still managed to make strides by upgrading its recycling facilities and raising awareness against the use of plastic in recent years.

A pilot project in Istanbul is allowing metro users to pay for credit on travel cards by slotting plastic bottles instead of money into vending machines.

Every bottle or can placed in the machine gives extra credit on Istanbul cards – the universal ticket for using public transport in the city.

“I’m bringing plastic bottles every day,” said Tülay Gerçek  at Şişhane station, where she had brought a large bag of bottles and cans.

“In the past I used to throw them into the bin. This is a very good project. There should be more,” she said. “I believe it will help raise public awareness a little bit.”

Turkey works to improve recycling and waste management
Tülay Gerçek puts plastic bottles into a vending machine in Istanbul in a pilot project to promote recycling

The machines are in place at three metro stations in Turkey’s mega city and officials hope to expand to more in the future.

“Polluting the soil”

Turkey ranks 108th with a score of 52.96 in the 2018 Environmental Performance Index (EPI), produced by the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy, that analyses the environmental performance of 180 nations

Top of the eco-chart is Switzerland, with a score of 87.42, indicating a strong showing across most issues, especially climate, energy and air pollution.

Turkey produces around 31 million tonnes of waste annually, out of which 11 percent is recycled.

Turkey works to improve recycling and waste management
Turkey currently recycles about 11 percent of its waste annually but steps are under way to promote more recycling

The Istanbul municipality told AFP that, of the non-recycled waste, 61 percent was burned to produce electricity and the remaining 28 percent buried with no use.

“We are polluting the soil and the environment with plastics, metals and glass which remain in the natural environment for years” – Oya Güzel, of the Mind Your Waste (Çöpüne Sahip Çık) foundation.

Back at Şişhane, Gerçek slotted her plastic bottles into the machine, realising to her chagrin that only 0.03 lira is given for each can or bottle, meaning she would need to recycle 87 cans or bottles for a single free trip that normally costs 2.60 lira.

“But still, it is a start. I believe this system will get better,” she said.

Sources: Daily Sabah/phys.org/Arab News

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