Communities Field Note – Angela Amato
Information from the Waste Management in Turkey: National Regulations and Evaluation of Implementation Results
Title: Messy Times in Turkey
Abstract: Picture it: you’re walking down the street on a bright, sunny day. There are birds chirping, people smiling, but garbage everywhere! Sometimes we forget that having people who collect our garbage and recyclables is a luxury! There are countries, like Turkey, when litter fills the street and is not very pretty. That’s why it is up to you and me to help to change our world to be a cleaner place.
During my semester in Turkey I have seen people litter but I have also seen people do things to help waste management. From making crafts out of plastic materials, to taking the time to put your plastic bottles in the “recycle” bin, we can make the world a cleaner place for everyone. In a big city like Istanbul with millions of people with waste products, it is important for the people and government to work together to help the needs of their community.
Introduction: How do nations meet their communities’ needs? Every community needs to have an efficient way to dispose of waste. I am sure you have seen (or heard) the garbage trucks rolling past your home early in the morning collecting trash or the recycling truck coming through to gather up your recyclable waste. It is a necessity to keep a community running smoothly.
In Turkey, the mayors and city legislatures are the people in charge of their communities needs. Trash collections are held once a week and recycling options are available. Unfortunately, a lot of people aren’t aware or interested in recycling. How silly does that sound? Not interested in helping the world stay healthy? A big problem is that people are not educated on easy ways to dispose of solid waste. Slowly but surely, projects are being started by the youth in the area. My university, for example, recycles plastic bottles in every dormitory that are then collected by the Sariyer Municipality. We like to say “no” to wasting and “yes” to reusing! I hope you do too!
What community need did I learn about? I learned about Turkey’s need to pay more attention to waste management, especially the recycling of plastic materials. There aren’t any benefits given to people for recycling. Although the institutions exist, there is also no punishment for not recycling. Families do not usually recycle because it is not easy to manage or dispose of promptly.
It is very popular for people to bring their own bags to grocery stores and markets. Grocery stores do not charge money for plastic bags so empty plastic bags are usually the most frequently seen trash outside. This is a practice that the older generation uses and has been passed down with success. It is fun to take your own reusable bag to the market! Unfortunately, a lot of the open markets do produce a large amount of waste. As I mentioned before, it is normal to bring ones own bag to the market, but smaller plastic bags are used to separate produce and other fresh goods. It is a work in progress but Turkey is making baby steps!
Why does the community have this need? The community needs to spend more time and money on improving waste management because it will save them money and preserve its natural beauty! Turkey is a country that has made huge leaps in modernization in only a matter of decades and so some parts of the culture have not caught up. One of them is waste management. Take for instance the availability of clean drinking water. Istanbul is a city that is jam-packed with people and factories so they not invested in clean drinking water. Some people do drink that tap water, but there are certain chemicals and bacteria that are more likely to make you sick if you are not used to the water. This also contributes to the waste problem. Because the water is not clean, people are forced to buy tons and tons of bottled water.
Is this need being met? How? There are trashcans located on the streets, but they are not used like they are in the United States. Candy wrappers, plastic bags and other types of trash are found everywhere. Even on trails and in parks, the lack of space provided for solid waste forces people to dump their trash in nature. It is very sad! Trash collectors come once a week but a lot of people litter. It is sad to see because a lot of the trash left over winds up in the Bosphorus Strait and on the streets.
- Are there ways or places to recycle in the local community, and if so, is it easy for people to access? There are a number of ways to recycle on my University’s campus. Each dormitory on campus has a big for recycling plastic water bottles, and a separate basket for the caps for said bottles. Additionally, the campus has at least a hundred gallon-jugs placed strategically throughout campus, encouraging people to use metal or reusable bottles instead of plastic. The youth in Turkey are very aware of the waste management issues and try to do their part to make campus clean.
- What is the public sentiment about the state of the environment, and do young people think they play a role in protecting the environment? If so, how? It is difficult to gauge how the public of Turkey as a whole feels about their environment. I can say that the Turkish population is very proud of their environmental beauty spots: Antalya, Fethiye, Capadoccia, Ephesus, Pamukkale, Trabzon, and other cities where the environment attracts many tourists. What is unfortunate is that there are only a few public groups who work diligently to bring attention to the upkeep of the environment. I have had tour guides and locals speak to me about the issues of waste on trails and how it adds to the deterioration of natural sites, but without funding, not much can be done. The government believes that modernization comes first, and environmental health comes second.
- What innovative solutions do you observe, or hear people talking about? There are not many projects that I have seen promoting solutions to waste management problems, but we met a woman who runs a non-profit organization in the town of Ayvalik, about 2 hours south of Istanbul, where she and a few local women make recyclable materials into purses, wallets, earring and other neat accessories. She uses bottle caps, candy wrappers, chip bags and other plastic materials to help local women as well as the environment.
- Have there been changes to environmental laws lately, or have new systems of solid waste management been introduced in the past five years? Municipalities (or government on a smaller scale) have been put in charge of handling their own waste management. This means that each district of Turkey is in charge of handling the management of solid waste. While this is not a huge issue for the districts of Istanbul who have disposal resources such as garbage trucks and recycling plants, it is an issue for rural areas. Most of Turkey is rural and not urbanized which leads people to frequently burn their garbage, which is very bad for the environment. Also, education is not as advanced in the more remote parts of Turkey. Some people really just don’t know how much damage they are doing to their environment.