First lady Emine Erdoğan took the Zero Waste Project she championed to the United Nations and hopes to extend its application to other countries after Türkiye's success in the recycling initiative.
Erdoğan and U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday signed a goodwill document to extend the project across the world.
Erdoğan and Guterres had a meeting at U.N. headquarters that tackled environmental issues, including the zero waste project launched in 2017 by the first lady in Türkiye. The project aims to contain waste under sustainable development principles and reduce pollution.
Following the meeting, Guterres said that waste is a vital problem for today and the project in this sense is very valuable and impressive. The U.N. chief also called on U.N. countries to expand Türkiye's Zero Waste Project globally as part of the environmentalist endeavor, which is among the most important issues the U.N. is struggling with.
Referring to the goodwill text on the project, Guterres said he would sign it in front of cameras due to the importance of the issue. "The text we will sign with you today reveals our common intention in this sense. I hope that the number of signatures on this declaration, which we will sign as the first two names, will increase," underlined Erdoğan, adding she hoped the project would spread globally.
Before the signing ceremony, Erdoğan presented Guterres with a portrait of the secretary-general, created with waste textile materials by the artist Deniz Sağdıç.
According to data released in July by the Turkish Environment, Urbanization and Climate Change Ministry, the project has stemmed 3.9 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions and saved the economy billions of dollars. Anadolu Agency (AA) reported on Tuesday that some 150,000 buildings across Türkiye have switched to the zero waste management system, which involves separate disposal of garbage and recycling practices. The ministry prepared a regulation on the issue in 2019, setting the guidelines for recycling practices. In addition, some 17 million people have been educated on the adoption of zero waste practices since the project's inception in 2017.
In a separate event at Turkish House (Türkevi) in New York, Erdoğan said the initiative has attracted "immense attention" internationally. "To date, we have received many international requests to share our experience on zero waste. Our success in this matter attracts immense attention from the international community," said Erdoğan. "We are ready to share (our experience) with every country and want to turn zero waste into a global movement," said the first lady.
During her remarks at the event, which was attended by senior U.N. officials, Erdoğan urged the participants to raise awareness about zero waste. She said Türkiye engages in the work of the U.N. Environment Programme and United Nations Human Settlements Programme (U.N.-Habitat) and is proud to be part of the solutions devised for environmental problems.
Erdoğan said climate change is one of the biggest crises for humanity and called for the signing of the "Zero Waste Declaration of Intent.”
The first lady said she had a "very productive meeting" with U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres earlier in the day, and he closely monitors and supports the Zero Waste Project. "I wholeheartedly believe that the Zero Waste Declaration of Intention we signed will be a new beginning in the world," said Erdoğan. Erdoğan said she believed that the signed agreement would serve the purposes of the Paris Agreement and 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The first lady also touched on the achievement of the 2017 initiative, saying Türkiye has processed nearly 33.8 million tons of recyclable waste since then. Erdogan said Türkiye also implemented the project on seas in 2019 and has disposed of 154,000 tons of marine litter in the last three years.
"President (Recep Tayyip Erdoğan) announced our target of 2053 net zero emissions to the whole world. As part of this vision, we've initiated a major transformation required by the Green Development Revolution," she added. Erdoğan thanked Under-Secretary-General of the U.N. and Executive Director of the U.N. Environment Program (UNEP) Inger Andersen, U.N.-Habitat executive director Maimunah Sharif and Special Adviser to U.N. Secretary-General on Climate Action Selwin Hart for their support of the Zero Waste Project.
Sharif thanked the first lady for her strong leadership support for the Zero Waste Project, saying people should reduce the use of plastic, paper and glass so that the project achieves its goals. Andersen, for her part, highlighted the need to implement sustainable waste management to prevent millions of tons of plastic from being dumped in the oceans every year. Later, Erdogan toured the "From Waste to Art Exhibition" organized by artist Deniz Sağdıç at the center.