Field Note: Communities
Unfortunately, pollution is a major problem in Turkey. Even though people here are very proud of their country, they don’t seem to make a connection with litter and disrespect for the land. Hopefully this will change in the future.
1.Are there ways for people to recycle in the local community, and if so, are they easy for people to access?
There are now recycling bins on the streets of my neighborhood, but these are very new. At my university, when I arrived, I could not find a place to recycle paper, much less plastic bottles or soda cans. There are now small recycling bins, though I do not feel there is very much awareness as to the importance of using these. In fact, it is often difficult to find any sort of trash can. If they exist, they might be overflowing with trash for weeks before someone empties them.
2. 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?
There is an environmental club at my university that occasionally tries to raise awareness about various issues. Sometimes they will set up a table on campus and hang out fliers about a cause. Because of this group’s efforts, students organized and requested the school to provide recycling bins. I hope young children are being educated on the importance of valuing their environment, but I am not sure whether or not they are.
3. What innovative solutions do you observe, or hear people talking about?
Honestly, I don’t hear much talk of innovative environmental solutions. I do not understand everything in Turkish, and maybe I am just not hanging around groups of people that are discussing such things, but it does not seem to be a very hot topic. Of course, I cannot speak for the entire country, but in my small city, people do not seem overly concerned with these issues. I have included some photos taken around my neighborhood of beautiful blooming trees or a lovely landscape, framed by piles of garbage. I have thought about cleaning such areas up myself, but there are so many, it seems like an overwhelming task.
4. Have there been changes to environmental laws lately, or have new systems of solid waste management been introduced in the past five years?
If so, it is not apparent. I know I set my garbage outside of my apartment door on any day of the week, and the gatekeeper will remove it. I have seen him take the trash from our building to a large dumpster down the street, but I have not discovered what happens to it. Sometimes people are sorting through the trash looking for items they can make a little money off of, but I am not familiar with where they can sell these items or how much they might bring. No one I have asked seems to know the answer either. In Oklahoma, I am interested and invested in personal waste management. I have a compost pile so that my discarded food can help renew the soil. I recycle everything possible, and know that whatever is left will be taken to my city’s landfill. In Turkey, I have had a hard time finding out much information on waste management.
5. Are there any youth groups, community organizations, NGO or INGOs actively working to address solid waste management issues in your community? Who are they and what are they doing. What can we learn from them? If possible, take a field trip and check out their work!
I have read about such groups in Turkey, though not in my city. There is the student group at the university that organizes events sometimes, but I would like to see more.
6. What are some opinions that local people have about this issue?
First of all, it is often hard to find a trash can anywhere in a public place. Some businesses or government offices hire someone to sweep the sidewalk in front of their buildings, but just beyond there might be an entire lot full of garbage. Sometimes it seems the plastic bottles we separate in our building might actually be recycled, but other times I am doubtful. People love plastic bags here. I brought my own reusable grocery bag from the United States, and I take it with me to the farmer’s market or grocery store whenever I go. People still want to bag up any goods I purchase in plastic bags, and then place those into my giant reusable bag. This defeats the purpose! I try to explain, but sometimes people are actually offended because they want me to carry the plastic bag with the name of their store displayed on it, like a walking advertisement. Sigh. I never throw plastic bags in the garbage, rather I save them for packaging or to reuse them. There are far too many plastic bags used in Turkey. Naturally, some of these fly around and end up getting stuck in trees or in bushes. Turkey is a beautiful country, and I cannot believe how people treat it when it comes to garbage. When riding on the dolmuş, the driver will press the button to automatically open the side door while we are driving down the highway so nice-looking grown men can throw their plastic bottles out onto the street. What??!! This to me is just crazy.
Tap water is okay to drink in most parts of Turkey, but in some places it is best to drink bottled water. Some people purchase very large jugs of water to keep in their home. This is better than many smaller bottles, but it still creates waste.
Not everyone agrees with the concept of throwing trash on the street, on the side of the road, or anywhere for that matter. They might make “tsk tsk” sound when they see someone do this, but nothing is really done about it. I make a point to pick up large water bottles or such things, but because of the lack of proper trash cans, I might end up carrying the trash with me for quite a while.
Smoking cigarettes is still very popular in Turkey, and people throw these absolutely everywhere. Unfortunately, they seem to throw just about everything everywhere. This is an issue I really hope will be resolved before long. Again, this country is so gorgeous. I do not know what will happen if people don’t stop throwing trash on the land.