Turkey’s first lady received the Global Action Award from the UN Development Project (UNDP) on Thursday for the country’s zero waste project that she led.
At a ceremony in the capital Ankara, UNDP Turkey Resident Representative Claudio Tomasi presented the award — given for the first time — to Emine Erdogan for the project’s “considerable contribution” towards responsible production and consumption, one of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
Aiming to reduce the volume of non-recyclable waste, the project is listed in the Environmental Performance Review of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
In her speech, First Lady Erdogan thanked the UNDP and warned that scientific research signaled that a dark future could be in store, noting particularly the climate crisis.
Quoting scientists, she said that the current generation would be the last that could change the course of the environment. “It is this opportunity that we must embrace. We have to work harder to leave a better planet for the future,” she said.
“All natural resources are the common heritage of both the present and future generations of humanity,” Erdogan underlined.
The award presented to the first lady was prepared by glassblower Hande Erbuk using recyclable glass and metal materials to represent the world’s fragile balance.
Zero waste project
Initiated in 2017, the project aims for a recovery rate of 35% in 2023, up from the current 19%.
From 2017 to 2020, 315 million kilowatt-hours of energy, 345 million cubic meters of water, 50 million barrels of oil, 397 million tons of raw materials, and 209 million trees were saved.
The project has also prevented 2 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions and saved 209 million trees.
In 2025, total global waste is expected to reach 2.2 billion tons from the current 1.3 billion tons, according to the World Bank, while this figure is forecast to reach 38 million tons in 2023.
Also, the project brought 17 billion Turkish liras ($3 billion) to the Turkish economy from June 2017 to the end of 2020. The average USD/TRY exchange rate was 5.55 during the period.
The project also aims to employ 100,000 people directly and generate savings of 20 billion Turkish liras ($2.7 billion) by 2023.
While 76,000 buildings currently have zero waste management systems, this figure is expected to reach 400,000 in 2023.
Also, 100,000 liters of oil is saved per ton of recycled glass, and 17 trees per ton of recycled paper.