The ocean is the largest ecosystem on Earth, it is the planet’s life support system. To survive and prosper, we need healthy oceans. 

Oxygen, a gas we all need to breathe, makes up 21% of the earth’s atmosphere. If asked how oxygen is produced most of us would say it comes from photosynthetic organisms like plants.

But did you know that more than half of the the oxygen you need to breathe comes from organisms in the ocean?

Zero Waste Blue - keeping our oceans clean
The oceans provide one out of every two breaths we take.

Marine photosynthesizers, like phytoplankton and seaweed use carbon dioxide, water and energy from the sun to make food for themselves, releasing oxygen in the process. In other words, they photosynthesize. And they do it in the ocean.

Zero Waste Blue - keeping our oceans clean
Kelp is a marine photosynthesizer that releases oxygen. Photo Credit: Oceana.

Given the importance of the role these phytoplankton play in ensuring thriving marine ecosystems and new research suggesting that chemicals leaching from the bags and bottles that pepper our seas are harming tiny marine organisms that are central to sustained human existence, it is vital that we keep our oceans clean.

Zero Waste Blue

The Zero Waste Blue (Sıfır Atık Mavi) project was launched by first lady, Emine Erdoğan in co-operation with the Turkish Marine Environment Protection Association (TURMEPA) to support the protection of our seas.

Erdoğan, who is also behind the larger Zero Waste project aiming to maximize recycling efforts in Turkey, launched the program on June 10.

Zero Waste Blue - keeping our oceans clean
First lady Emine Erdoğan at the launch of Zero Waste Blue in June.

The project launch was accompanied by a mandate from the Environment and Urban Planning Ministry for the fight against maritime waste, aiming to raise awareness of maritime pollution and the collection of pollutants.

Zero Waste Blue - keeping our oceans clean
According to a report, “Out of Plastic Trap: Saving the Mediterranean from Plastic Pollution” published by WWF Turkey in 2018,  144 tonnes of plastics go into the seas in Turkey every day. – UNDP

As a result, more than 30,000 people have been educated and trained on how to prevent and handle maritime pollution, with 760 companies declaring their commitment to not dispose of waste in the seas. Associations of divers are also contributing to the Zero Waste Blue program with public events to collect waste from the seas. Advertising campaigns are also mobilizing the public to keep bodies of water clean.

158,000 cubic meters of waste removed from the seas

In the four months since launch of the project, 158,000 cubic meters of waste have been removed from the seas.

The cities of Istanbul, Antalya, Samsun, Zonguldak, Kastamonu, Bursa, Kocaeli, Çanakkale, Edirne and Trabzon led the cleaning efforts.

Zero Waste Blue - keeping our oceans clean
Our seas are now cleaner thanks to Zero Waste Blue.

The project will continue through the next year with the implementation of new activities. As part of the action plan, warnings will be placed everywhere near the sea, from piers and passenger ferries to beaches, hotels and schools, to highlight the issue. Students will be educated on preventing pollution and cleaning campaigns will also be organized all across the country. The organizers of the project also plan to set a designated Zero Waste Blue coast to set an example on how a truly clean coastal area should be.

Some beaches will also be designated plastic-free while hotels and ports successful in switching to zero waste practices will be certified. The project also seeks help from fishermen to keep the seas clean.

“Our seas have become garbage dumps. Waste not only pollutes the seas but also becomes a part of the food chain. That means we eat micro plastics when we consume seafood. This situation threatens our health. We should reduce consumption and avoid disposable plastic waste.”  – Emine Erdoğan

Blue Wave success to be expanded in Turkey

Zero Waste Blue - keeping our oceans clean
The Blue Wave project – protecting the waters of Fethiye. Photo by Şemsi Toprak.

The Blue Wave (Mavi Dalga) project aims to improve awareness and understanding of the threats to the marine environment and how they can mitigate these threats.

The Travel Foundation UK, working with local partners Chamber of Shipping, Fethiye Branch, Fethiye Municipality, TURMEPA, and D-Marin Göcek is taking measures to conserve the coastline and delicate marine environment.

Up until now, the Blue Wave project has been focused on the Fethiye-Göcek bay area, but the project will now be spread to other destinations. The Chamber of Shipping branches in Marmaris and Bodrum intend to implement parts of the initiative in each destination, with support provided by the Fethiye branch. 

After a recent presentation of the Blue Wave project to national representatives of the Turkish Chamber of Shipping and TURMEPA (the Turkish Marine Environment Protection Association), Programme Coordinator Şemsi Toprak said “Today our Blue Wave project received great support from the Turkish Chamber of Shipping. The board agreed to expand the unique project developed with partners in the Fethiye-Göcek area. The intention is to replicate the initiative in other prime marine tourism destinations in Turkey, starting with Marmaris and Bodrum, to improve the level of sustainable practices among the sector. We are looking forward to work together until the end of the year to support planning and shaping the future of the project”

Sources: Sabah/ Travel Foundation UK/