Recycling, made in various ways since the 11th century in human history, has pros and cons. The positive effects such as reducing environmental pollution, establishing a green world awareness, and increasing new business areas are known by everyone. In addition, waste collection facilities do not become the priority choice of some countries since the process consumes more energy and is expensive. While the number of waste recovery facilities in Turkey was 2057 in 2018, this number increased to 2568 in 2020. Despite this, municipal waste sent to recycling facilities increased by only 0.9% and reached 13.2%.
Although every effort to prevent environmental pollution and leave a better world for new generations triggers better and more planned work, Turkey's situation is not a good place compared to countries such as Germany, Sweden, and Norway. Since 2016, Germany has had the world's highest recycling rate, with 56.1% of all waste generated last year recycled. In 1990, Germany conducted a packaging inspection to help prevent the potential increase in landfill problems.
Policymakers have held manufacturers responsible for the packaging waste they develop to help prevent landfill problems. Manufacturers' response was to create the "Green Dot" application, the world's first multi-recycling system to collect waste from homes and businesses. This cooperation led to an increase in the recycling rate in Germany from 3% in 1991 to 56.1%. In January 2019, the country implemented the German Packaging Law. The legislation's primary purpose is to prevent or reduce the impact of packaging waste on the environment and make retailers more responsible for promoting environmentally friendly products.
A member of the European Union (EU) also participates in the Circular Economic Action Plan, aiming to make sustainable products the norm. The European Commission adopted the new circular economy action plan in March 2020. It is one of the main building blocks of the European Green Deal, Europe's new strategy for sustainable growth. The EU's transition to a circular economy will reduce the pressure on natural resources and create sustainable development and employment. It is also a prerequisite for achieving the EU's 2050 target of climate neutrality while at the same time halting the loss of biodiversity.
The new action plan announces initiatives throughout the entire life cycle of products. This plan aims at how products are designed, promotes circular economy processes and sustainable consumption, avoids waste, and ensures that the resources used are kept in the EU economy for as long as possible. It also offers legislative and non-legislative measures targeting areas where actions at the EU level provide real added value. Of course, alongside long-standing agreements, state-enforced rules also restrict single-use items and prohibit the destruction of durable goods that are not sold in the trading bloc.
Since the human waste rates of Germany, with a population of 83.24 million, and Turkey, with a population of 84.34 million, will be approximately similar, the difference in recycling rates between 56.1 % and 13.2% is noticeable. Therefore, Turkey needs to take steps in this regard. Among all these ratios, imported plastic waste is present, although the low rate indicates that Turkey needs to develop further.
Sweden, a member of the EU, recycles almost all of its waste. But some sources say this is simply because the country counts energy recovery from incineration as a form of recycling, which does not fit the term "recycling." But despite this, Sweden has reduced its carbon dioxide emissions by 2.2 million tons per year by first converting its waste into energy. Between 1990 and 2006, it was estimated that carbon dioxide emissions decreased by 34%, and greenhouse gas emissions would decrease by 76% by the 2020s compared to 1990. Secondly, Sweden uses the method of instilling recycling awareness in people at an early age. Children are taught to recycle from a very young age, making it a way of life in Sweden. There is even a national day when children from all over the country gather to collect garbage and clean up their surroundings. Teachers have undergone special training to involve children in practical activities such as making their papers or enforcing school waste policies.
Eventually, everyone in the country stepped in, making recycling easy, accessible, and convenient for Sweden. A recycling station can be found no more than 300 meters from any residential area. Like in Germany, there are ways to encourage people: Swedish citizens receive discount coupons as a reward for using nearby recycling machines.
A country does not need a regular organization like the EU to be more environmentally friendly and collect its waste more appropriately. Today, Turkey can reach an advanced point in recycling, like Germany, without relying on any joint action plan by ending the purchase of plastic waste and achieving a sufficient and planned waste shredding power. In addition, as in Sweden, it can be ensured that people at least make waste separation by raising awareness of individuals at an early age. By bringing consumption hunger to low levels in one place, improvements can be made both in recycling and energy use. The increase in sanctions and the use of reward methods is one of the steps taken on Turkey's path to becoming a greener country. Even though there are applications that make a lot of noise in some municipalities, they are not sufficient throughout the country, and the systems need to be developed further.