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Prince Islands will be one of Turkey’s pilot sites in the fight against plastic pollution

Prince Islands -an archipelago of 9 islands close to Istanbul- will be one of the first pilot sites to be included in Turkey’s national Zero Waste Program to improve waste management. The project was launched this week on September 19 and will be developed in collaboration with WWF-Turkey, the Turkish Ministry of Environment and the Islands Municipality. The commitment took place in front of the Blue Panda, WWF’s boat currently sailing in Turkey to campaign against plastic pollution.

Büyükada, the largest island in Prince Islands is one of the must-see sites of Istanbul: only half an hour away by ferry, they are still a natural attraction with national parks and unique underwater coral habitats. This makes them a popular destination attracting over 100,000 tourists every day during the summer. The summer peak puts enormous pressure on the local waste capacity which is allocated on the basis of the only 16,000 residents living in the islands. Gaps in collection areas and recycling units are among the main problems of the islands, in addition to the lack of public information about waste disposal and recycling.

The project will aim to improve the local waste management system to ensure full collection and recycling, and WWF-Turkey will mainly focus on informing and mobilising people to tackle plastic pollution. A new waste management system will be established to ensure that all waste from the island is disposed in recycling bins and carried to a new waste collection to be effectively recycled. This will avoid that recyclable waste ends up in solid waste landfills. WWF wants the island to act as an inspiring model in the fight against plastic to be replicated in other tourist areas, especially coastal towns, in the country and the whole Mediterranean.

Tackling plastic pollution in Turkey

Turkey is one of the most polluting countries in terms of plastics in the Mediterranean, as reported by WWF’s study. Stopping single-use plastic and tackling the sources of pollution have become a key priority of WWF-Turkey.

In mid 2018, WWF launched the debate in the country with a workshop gathering all relevant national stakeholders (government, the private sector, academia, and civil society) to develop strategies and mechanisms to reduce plastic waste. Together with the government, we launched an awareness-raising campaign, where 100,000 people pledged to change their behavior on plastic. Our video, was broadcast by 56 national TV channels as a public spot and reached more than 10 million people. Field studies were carried in selected coastal areas to collect and analyse plastic waste in order to understand the composition of marine and beach litter.

Our work with the Turkish government has yielded remarkable progress. As of 1 Jan 2019, the government has enforced a new policy charging 25 Turkish cents for each plastic bag, remarkably reducing plastic bag consumption. WWF is also lobbying the government to take a leading role in the development of a new global legally binding agreement on marine plastic pollution.

More work and investments are needed to change Turkey’s hunger for plastic and to boost recycling and reuse in the country, but these first steps are important signs of change for the country and the whole region. Especially the Zero Waste Programme which was launched by the auspices of First Lady Emine Erdogan end of 2017, sets ambitious targets about waste management and give us hope in that sense. Recycling rate already jumped from 1% at the beginning of 2000’s to 13% nowadays according to Environment Ministry.

Our collaboration at the Prince Islands will provide a good practice for the whole project and be a role model for many small municipalities struggling with the sudden influx of tourists in summer season. Our hope is that the project will be an inspiration for the whole Mediterranean.
© WWF-Turkey
The Blue Panda is in Turkey to fight plastic pollution