The Zero Waste Project, launched in 2017 by first lady Emine Erdoğan, continues to propel Turkey in its efforts to boost recycling. The government-led initiative recommended charging shoppers TL 0.25 per plastic bag, a practice that became a mandatory regulation in 2019.
Since then, the country has managed to reduce the number of plastic bags used by businesses by some 75%, thus preventing 290,000 tons of plastic waste accumulation, according to a report by the Sabah newspaper.
Minister of Environment, Urbanization and Climate Change Murat Kurum recently told lawmakers that they have been closely monitoring the implementation of the practice and that 162 businesses had been fined $69,000 (TL 658,153) for failing to abide by the regulation.
Plastic pollution is a global concern in a world embattled with a climate crisis. In 2019, 170 countries pledged to reduce their use of plastics by 2030 at the United Nations. Plastic bags and single-use plastics make up the bulk of plastic pollution, posing a particular threat to the seas. According to U.N. figures, some 500 billion plastic bags are used annually across the world and 13 million tons of plastics leak into the oceans. Overall, 10% of all human-generated waste is plastic, despite the fact that it takes 100 years for the material to decompose in the environment in order and lose its harmful effects.