OPINION - Zero Waste: A movement of social responsibility
Zero Waste project is indeed waste prevention and reduction as well as establishment of effective waste collection system, recycling and more sustainable use of resources for better future
The writer is an Italian academic expert on Political Science and International Relations. She is this scientific director of Observatory in Türkiye by CeSPI.
The curtain has fallen on the Delhi G-20 summit that, under the title "One earth, one family, one future" the leaders of the 20 largest economies were brought together to share recommendations on best practices and joint actions for a sustainable future. In this framework, Türkiye stands out for its efforts to encourage global solidarity in combating the triple planet crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution. A strong sensitivity towards the planet, which, under the umbrella of the "Zero Waste" project launched by the First Lady Emine Erdogan, has fast become an international best practice and source of inspiration.
Zero Waste Project
The importance of the planet emphasized at the last G-20 organized by the Indian Presidency brings to light the great urgency of raising awareness about the state of environmental degradation and the need to preserve the planet through the application of good practices. This inevitably also passes through the sharing of experiences between states and the main global stakeholders. In this regard, Türkiye emerges as the great spokesperson for Zero Waste approach designed and implemented for a greener and more sustainable future.
The target of the Zero Waste project is indeed waste prevention and reduction, as well as the establishment of an effective waste collection system, recycling, and a more sustainable use of resources for a better future. "Zero Waste", thus, was born from the belief that humanity can live in harmony with nature and that a sustainable type of life is not only possible but also achievable at zero cost. The idea, as a cornerstone of a philosophy of life as well as of a profound sense of responsibility, was launched in 2017. It is therefore a recent initiative that, however, quickly caught on at a social level, obtaining widespread consensus internationally. It is essentially a social responsibility movement that adopts a sustainable lifestyle, respects the environment, acts in harmony with nature, and above all, recognizes that waste is a source of energy. It has quickly become a more systemic project that goes hand in hand with Türkiye's political goals and international obligations. In accordance with the signing of the well-known Green Deal, the Zero Waste project goal is to recycle 60% of all recyclable waste by 2035.
Arising awareness and best practices
The first step of Zero Waste implementation started in Ankara at the Presidential Complex and at the Ministry of Environment, Urbanization, and Climate Change, while later it gradually expanded to public spaces, hospitals, schools, airports, shopping malls, train stations, tourism facilities, and business institutions. It is estimated that as of today, 140 thousand institutions and businesses have begun to implement Zero Waste. Indeed, Zero Waste has triggered a mindset change through some educational training, as well.
In Türkiye, so far, thanks to the commitment of the Ministry of Environment, Urbanization, and Climate Change, around 18 million people have received training on a sustainable lifestyle based on the recycling and rational use of waste. In a short time, concrete results have also started to be obtained. Since the project's launch in 2017, licensed businesses have processed approximately 33,8 million tons of recyclable waste, including 20,4 million tons of paper and cardboard, 5,4 million tons of plastic, 2,3 million tons of glass, 0,5 million tons of metal, and 5,2 million tons of organic and other recyclable waste.
As a matter of fact, there is an impressive economic impact, as the total waste introduced into the Turkish economy was ₺62.2 billion. In terms of the circular economy, therefore, Zero Waste is a crucial pivot. Energy savings from the project have been calculated to be 530 million kilowatt-hours, while water savings are 572 million cubic meters, and storage space savings are 69 million cubic meters. In other words, it means that the project has prevented 3,9 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions as well as 347 million trees, 87 million barrels of oil, and 650 million tons of raw material. Furthermore, over a 5-year period, the recovery rate increased to 27,2%, resulting in a total saving of ₺65,2 billion. Hence, from a comprehensive perspective, Türkiye has significantly stepped forward with the Green Development Initiative and related 2053 Net Zero Emission Target.
Internationally acknowledged exemplary practices
In light of such a vision and great progress, Türkiye has been serving as a source of inspiration for all countries around the world. First Lady Emine Erdogan, has also been acknowledged as a role model of women's leadership. Indeed, in September 2022, the United Nations (UN) General Secretary, Antonio Guterres, and the spouses of many heads of state, ministers, and UN representatives endorsed the Zero Waste Project by signing a global declaration of goodwill aimed at spreading knowledge and best practices around the world. The declaration was further followed by the unanimous adoption of the Zero Waste Resolution on December 14, 2022, which was submitted by Türkiye and supported by 105 countries.
Besides, the "Advisory Board of Eminent Persons on Zero Waste" was established, and UN General Secretary Guterres offered Emine Erdogan the chairperson position. On last July 27, the first meeting was conveyed under Emine Erdogan’s chair, and for the next 3 years, it will get reunited twice a year under the scope of disseminating good practices and sharing success stories with different countries and in different sectors. Moreover, March 30 has been proclaimed the International Day of Zero Waste. Other UN agencies and international institutions have recognized the importance and effectiveness of Zero Waste, also referring to its Blue Factor, which endeavors to protect oceans and seas by keeping them litter-free.
Hence, it is thanks to Türkiye, and especially to the vision of the First Lady, Emine Erdogan, that Zero Waste has become a transnational movement as well as an international best practice and global policy.
*Opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Anadolu.