The ‘Zero Waste’ project, championed by first lady Emine Erdoğan, has made waves across Turkey in the year following its launch. The project is meant to reduce garbage not recycled. Speaking at a summit she hosted earlier this month on the issue, Erdoğan called for more public awareness on zero waste ‘that will make the environment more livable and the economy stronger’

From malls to schools in Turkey, zero waste to be mandatory under draft bill
The First Lady called for more public awareness on zero waste ‘that will make the environment more livable and the economy stronger’

Turkey’s recycling drive saved more than 30 million trees between 2017 and 2018 and more than 1.7 million tons of waste paper and cartons were recycled last year and within the first three months of 2018.

From malls to schools in Turkey, zero waste to be mandatory under draft bill
Local women sort out the garbage before the recycling process begins.

Waste management a priority

In recent years, Turkey has started to prioritise waste management over concerns of rising environmental damage with municipalities responsible for garbage collection upgrading their waste management systems. Turkey also managed to recycle more than half of the plastic bottles in the market last year. According to official figures, out of the 236,000 tons of plastic bottles sold last year, 140,000 tons were recycled. In the first quarter this year, 17,500 tons of plastic bottles were recycled to be used again.

The story of recycling plastic bottles

Garbage is collected throughout the city and brought to sorting facilities, where different materials, mainly glass, paper, plastic and metal are separated. After being sorted, it is pressed into bales and stacked in a storage area for transportation to a recycling facility.

Plastic waste is sorted according to type and broken down in shredders. The shredded plastic is known as “burrs.” The burrs are then placed in the freezer, followed by a helix machine, which turns the plastic into lentil-size granules. These granules are packed in plastic bags and distributed to companies for reuse. Numerous products including agricultural irrigation pipes, packaging, and home and garden goods can be made from this repurposed material.

From malls to schools in Turkey, zero waste to be mandatory under draft bill
Recycling bins for bottles are a familiar sight

Human factor is important

In her speech at the summit Emine Erdoğan said “You can set up a system but it won’t work if you cannot change the behavior of people. Human factor is important. We would fail if people were not willing to participate. For example, choosing canvas bags instead of plastic bags is a small step but helps us to preserve more trees and water sources.”

Environment and Urbanization Minister Murat Kurum also said that more municipalities would switch to recycling by the end of 2019 and they also work to curb the use of plastic bags. “Starting next January, consumers will be obliged to pay for plastic bags while shopping. Use of plastic bags per person is currently 440 and we aim to decrease it to 90 or less by the end of next year,” he said. He said that their aim was to bring the recycling rate to 35 within the next five years. “This also means a TL 20 billion [$3.58 billion] saving for our economy,” he added.

Turkey’s road to ‘zero waste’

The Ministry of Environment and Urbanization have tabled a draft bill that aims to make zero waste policy an inseparable part of daily life in the country.

Under the bill that comes at the heels of a campaign to reduce waste, municipalities, bus stations, shopping malls, public institutions, workplaces, schools, hotels and hospitals will be obliged to adapt to the zero waste innovative. If approved by Parliament, the regulations will come into force next year. Municipalities will also be tasked with supervising the zero waste work.

Under the draft bill, every business or public institution will be required to receive a zero waste certificate that will evaluate how they comply with the new policies. The bill also makes it mandatory for municipalities to set up facilities for collection of waste separated at its source.

Turkey, late to the recycling trend and efficient waste management except in big cities, strives to end landfills whose number has considerably decreased in recent years.

For large cities, garbage disposal units to be used for storage of recyclable materials that will be deployed at every 400 meters and mobile units will be placed in neighborhoods to pick up recyclable waste. Municipalities will also be required to inform the public on how to separate recyclable waste and where to dump it.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Environment and Urbanization Minister Murat Kurum said that Turkey has come a long way in adapting to zero waste and has achieved gains. He said that the new regulations aim to make the project a nationwide concept. “Municipalities have a big task in spreading the practice and we will only be successful if they back it,” he added. “It is not enough for municipalities to only collect waste and store it. They should set up collection systems for every recyclable material, from paper and plastic to metal and glass,” Kurum said, explaining that they would closely monitor the municipalities on how they implement the zero waste system.

Source: Daily Sabah