Slow recycler Turkey seeks better uses for its trash

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The country of over 80 million people has notoriously bad record on recycling and waste. (AFP)
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Authorities are starting to understand the need to change the public’s profligate habits. (AFP)
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Green policies do not appear as yet to be a major vote winner in Turkey. (AFP)
Updated 10 December 2018

Slow recycler Turkey seeks better uses for its trash

  • Turkey ranks 108th with a score of 52.96 in the 2018 Environmental Performance Index (EPI)
  • The Istanbul municipality said that, of the non-recycled waste, 61 percent was burned to produce electricity and the remaining 28 percent buried with no use

ISTANBUL: Turkish woman Tulay Gercek stands in front of a vending machine at a busy Istanbul metro station but instead of putting coins into a slot, she crams plastic bottles into a hole.
Every bottle or can Gercek places in the machine gives extra credit on her Istanbul card — the universal ticket for using public transport in the city — in a pilot project by the municipality to promote recycling.
“I’m bringing plastic bottles every day,” she said at Sishane station, where she had brought a large bag of bottles and cans.
“In the past I used to throw them into the bin. This is a very good project. There should be more,” she said. “I believe it will help raise public awareness a little bit.”
The machines are in place at three metro stations in Turkey’s mega city and officials hope to expand to more in the future.
It’s so far a relatively rare step in a country of over 80 million people with a notoriously bad record on recycling and waste.
Activists say this must change fast and there are signs, albeit tentative, that the authorities are starting to understand the need to change profligate habits.

Turkey ranks 108th with a score of 52.96 in the 2018 Environmental Performance Index (EPI), produced by the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy, that analyzes the environmental performance of 180 nations.
Top of the eco-chart is Switzerland, with a score of 87.42, indicating a strong showing across most issues, especially climate, energy and air pollution.
Oya Guzel, of the Mind Your Waste (Copune Sahip Cik) foundation, said Turkey was producing around 31 million tons of waste annually, out of which 11 percent was recycled.
“We are polluting the soil and the environment with plastics, metals and glass which remain in the natural environment for years,” she told AFP.
“We have a target of 35 percent (of all waste to be recycled) by five years from now, which is also low but we believe progress can be made” in that time.
She said it was consumers in the end who have to decide what is recyclable.
“We could turn it into raw material, or throw away litter and make it trash,” Guzel said, urging consumers to give up on disposable materials.
“We use a plastic bag for an average time of 12 minutes. It becomes trash 12 minutes later.”
The Istanbul municipality told AFP that, of the non-recycled waste, 61 percent was burned to produce electricity and the remaining 28 percent buried with no use.

Green policies do not appear as yet to be a major vote winner in Turkey but there are signs the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is now paying some attention to the issue.
Environment and Urbanization Minister Murat Kurum said there would be a compulsory charge for plastic bags from January, bringing Turkey into line with other European countries.
That would be a revolution in a country which uses plastic bags massively.
Kurum said that every Turkish citizen uses, on average, 440 bags a year, adding the aim was to reduce this to 40 by 2025.
The recycling campaign is also strongly backed by Erdogan’s wife Emine, who said at a conference on zero waste that the target was a “more liveable environment” and a “stronger economy by classifying the waste at its source and recycling.”
She said Erdogan’s presidential palace was leading the way with its staff now trained in how to recycle waste on site.
“We have not had garbage trucks at the presidential complex for a long time,” she said.

At a sorting facility on the outskirts of Istanbul, organic waste is separated, processed and used as fertilizer in parks and gardens throughout the city, while non-organic materials, like glass, plastics and metals, are recycled.
But Ibrahim Halil Turkeri, the city’s recycling chief, said that “greater responsibility falls to individuals.”
“If the waste is classified at its source, cleaner waste will reach our facility and factories, and they will have better value as secondary raw materials, and all will have been recycled.”
Ahmet Hamdi Zembil, environment engineer at waste management company ISTAC, said gas from burning organic waste can be transformed into electricity.
But he added that classifying at source was crucial so that synthetic waste was not mixed in.
“We have disposed of seven million tons of waste here over the last year and produced 400 million kilowatt hours of electricity,” he said.
Back at Sishane, Gercek slotted her plastic bottles into the machine, realizing to her chagrin that only 0.03 lira is given for each can or bottle, meaning she would need to recycle 87 cans or bottles for a single free trip that normally costs 2.60 lira ($0.50).
“But still, it is a start. I believe this system will get better,” she said.


Alaska man discovers 50-year-old message in bottle from Russian Navy

Updated 19 August 2019

Alaska man discovers 50-year-old message in bottle from Russian Navy

  • Then Russian Navy Capt. Anatolii Prokofievich Botsanenko wrote the letter when he was a 36-year-old aboard the Sulak
ANCHORAGE, Alaska: A man discovered a 50-year-old letter in a bottle from the Russian Navy on the shores of western Alaska.
Tyler Ivanoff found the handwritten Russian letter early this month while gathering firewood near Shishmaref about 600 miles (966 kilometers) northwest of Anchorage, television station KTUU reported.
“I was just looking for firewood when I found the bottle,” Tyler Ivanoff said. “When I found the bottle, I had to use a screwdriver to get the message out.”
Ivanoff shared his discovery on Facebook where Russian speakers translated the message to be a greeting from a Cold War Russian sailor dated June 20, 1969. The message included an address and a request for a response from the person who finds it.
Reporters from the state-owned Russian media network, Russia-1, tracked down the original writer, Capt. Anatolii Prokofievich Botsanenko, KTUU reported.
He was skeptical he wrote the note until he saw his signature on the bottom.
“There — exactly!” he exclaimed.
The message was sent while the then 36-year-old was aboard the Sulak, Botsanenko said. Botsanenko shed tears when the Russian television reporter told him the Sulak was sold for scrap in the 1990s.
Botsanenko also showed the reporter some souvenirs from his time on the ship, including the autograph of the wife of a famous Russian spy and Japanese liquor bottles, the latter kept over his wife’s protests.
Ivanoff’s discovery of the bottle was first reported by Nome radio station KNOM.