Türkiye emerges as a leader of the zero-waste movement

The country’s leadership has inspired progress on achieving zero waste at home and abroad.

Employees work on November 28, 2020 at GAMA Recycle factory in the southern Turkish province of Gaziantep. - It is supposed to be recycled but instead plastic packaging from popular British supermarkets like Sainsbury's and French frozen food retailer Picard is ending up being dumped illegally in the Turkish countryside. There are at least 10 known sites in southern Turkey where European plastics have been dumped illegally. (Photo by Yasin AKGUL / AFP)
Employees work at GAMA Recycle factory in the southern Turkish province of Gaziantep on November 28, 2020 [File: Yasin Akgul/AFP]

While much of the international media is often focused on Turkish foreign and domestic policy, they tend to miss some of the good news, such as our progress in tackling environmental challenges. Türkiye has been positively contributing to all international efforts in meeting the monumental challenges placed before humanity by climate change.

Under the leadership of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish government has not only signed major climate agreements but also has led efforts to diversify energy sources for our nation as well as for Europe. Türkiye’s efforts to invest in cleaner sources of energy and diplomatic efforts to bring Central Asian natural gas resources to Europe will make the country an energy hub. This will contribute to energy security in our region and help move us towards more sustainable resources.

In addition to the great progress we have achieved over the years in increasing the share of renewables in our energy mix, we have made great strides in reducing our carbon footprint overall. Thanks to the leadership and initiative of First Lady Emine Erdogan, who has spearheaded the national mobilisation in this field since 2017, Türkiye has emerged as a leader of the global zero-waste movement. She has been a tireless advocate of the movement, inspiring our citizens to think more consciously about our consumption process.

On December 14, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a zero-waste resolution put forward by Türkiye. This is a significant milestone in our efforts to attain the UN sustainable development goals.

Türkiye’s leadership has recognised for a while now that the climate crisis is real, and we need to act urgently. Our tradition and culture already teach us that wasting resources and leaving the world worse than how we inherited it is an injustice to future generations. It is also a serious abuse of the earth’s riches bestowed upon us.

As we enjoy what we are given, it is imperative for us humans to leave behind a world better than the way we found it. This is the basic principle our leadership approaches climate change issues among others.

Only equitable and fair use of natural resources with awareness about future generations can result in truly impactful solutions that could make sustainability a reality. The common future of humanity depends on our environmental awareness and commitment to a more sustainable lifestyle.

Both our President and First Lady have been practising these principles in their daily lives and representing examples for all to emulate.

The zero-waste movement led by the First Lady has resulted in countless initiatives and projects inside our country, some of which have already gained international recognition. Some of our public and private institutions have reached their zero-waste goals in a short amount of time.

Turkish Aerospace Industries, for instance, was able to recycle 99 percent of its waste. Some of our municipalities were recognised by European institutions for their waste management and composting projects. Our Environment and Urbanisation Ministry has been providing grants that encourage such projects.

The Agriculture and Forestry Ministry has been creating projects to address issues like water waste, which is an increasingly more precious resource these days. We have started imposing fees to discourage plastic bag use and fines to prevent littering, hazardous material use, air pollution and even noise pollution.

Many creative minds in our country have been inspired by the zero-waste movement to the extent that they created artwork made of plastic and other waste products to raise awareness.

At international forums, Türkiye has been a leader in advocating for zero-waste measures. First Lady Erdogan took every opportunity to remind the world that we need to reform our consumption patterns and be mindful of what we are leaving behind.

While it is important to think about finding new sources of energy to power our activities, reducing our carbon footprint starts with our consumption habits. Transformative technologies and cleaner sources of energy will play a significant role in addressing the climate change challenges.

However, they will not be enough if citizens are not conscious and active participants in the zero-waste movement. Eliminating waste at the level of consumption is relatively easier than trying to recycle the plastic or other chemical wastes produced as a result of our activities. This is the kind of conscious attitude the zero-waste movement has introduced in our country, and it is rewarding to see its recognition by institutions like the UN.

Our government remains committed to taking action to protect our environment and reduce our carbon footprint for a sustainable world for future generations. Both our President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and our First Lady Emine Erdogan are fighting hard to implement measures to make this a reality and raise awareness nationally as well as globally.

The Covid-19 pandemic showed us that global challenges cannot be addressed without global solidarity and cooperation. When it comes to meeting the environmental challenges of our day, the same is true. Despite all the instability in the international system, Türkiye remains committed to working with like-minded nations towards a more sustainable future.

Let us take advantage of the adoption of Türkiye’s zero-waste resolution by the UN to elevate this agenda further. Responsible and conscientious consumption must be part of any serious strategy to address the global climate change challenges. Our leaders are doing their part and the world leaders must join them.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.