Türkiye’s Zero Waste Project: A Paradigm Shift in Sustainable Waste Management

Türkiye’s Zero Waste Project: A Paradigm Shift in Sustainable Waste Management

December 15, 2023

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As the world confronts escalating environmental challenges, Türkiye’s Zero Waste Project emerges not only as a groundbreaking initiative but also as a benchmark in sustainable waste management. Launched in 2017 by the Ministry of Environment, Urban Planning and Climate Change, this ambitious project has rapidly evolved into a cornerstone of Türkiye’s environmental policy.

The Zero Waste Project emphasizes waste management philosophy, which involves preventing wastage, using resources more efficiently, reviewing reasons for waste formation, preventing or minimizing waste formation, and collecting and recovering waste at the source separately.

Project Overview

Showcasing a comprehensive approach, the Zero Waste Project is dedicated to reducing waste, promoting recycling, and fostering a culture of sustainability. It stands as a testament to Türkiye’s commitment to environmental stewardship and a model for global sustainable waste management practices.

The Zero Waste Project was designed to address multiple facets of waste management in Türkiye. Its key objectives include recycling agricultural byproducts, safely repurposing hazardous waste, implementing segregated waste collection, and assisting farmers with zero waste practices. The initiative operates under the overarching goal of sustainable development, aiming to significantly reduce pollution and improve environmental health.

The Importance of the Project

Environmental Protection: By reducing waste sent to landfills and promoting recycling, the project significantly mitigates environmental pollution.

Economic Efficiency: Recycling and waste reduction lead to economic savings and generate new business opportunities in the waste management sector.

Public Health: Improved waste management practices contribute to better public health outcomes by reducing pollution-related diseases.

Sustainable Development: The project aligns with global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly focusing on responsible production and consumption.


The Zero Waste System is a seven-step roadmap that companies, institutions, or organizations should apply to be included in the Zero Waste movement. The steps include: preventing waste at its source; reducing, reusing, and recycling; composting organic waste; establishing a separate collection system; encouraging public participation; supporting research and development, and monitoring and continuous improvement.

Local Government Involvement: The project involves local governments significantly, with city administrations striving to create clean, healthy, contemporary, and livable environmental conditions for their stakeholders, and ensures tailored, effective implementation in various regions.

Public Awareness Campaigns: A significant emphasis is placed on educating the public about the benefits of recycling and sustainable waste management.

Infrastructure Development: Installation of separate waste bins for recyclables and non-recyclables in urban areas is a key component.

Support for Agriculture: Providing support to the agricultural sector to adopt zero waste practices, enhancing both environmental and economic sustainability.


The project contributes to public education and awareness, has significant environmental and economic impacts, and is supported by a comprehensive policy framework.

Educational Component:
The project involves educating the public about waste management and sustainable practices. This includes awareness campaigns and possibly integrating waste management topics into educational curricula. Teachers from various disciplines in primary and secondary public schools have been involved in specifying opinions and approaches regarding the project, indicating an educational outreach component.

Environmental and Economic Impact Assessment:
The project aims to create clean, healthy, contemporary, and livable environmental conditions. This includes reducing landfill waste, increasing recycling rates, and improving overall environmental quality.
The project has economic benefits, such as monetizing recycled waste and contributing to the economy.

Policy Framework:
The Zero Waste Project is aligned with Türkiye’s national environmental policies and strategies. It is also in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly the goal of “Responsible Production and Consumption”. The project’s alignment with the European Union’s legal framework on waste indicates its compliance with international environmental standards. Local governments play a significant role in its implementation, suggesting that the policy framework includes both national and local legislation facilitating its goals.
This comprehensive approach, combining educational initiatives, environmental and economic benefits, and a strong policy framework, underscores the project’s holistic strategy in promoting sustainable waste management practices in Türkiye.


Increased Recycling Rates: There has been a substantial increase in the amount of waste recycled across Türkiye, significantly reducing the volume of waste sent to landfills.
For the year 2023, the project targets a 35 percent recovery rate in 400,000 buildings. This indicates a significant reduction in landfill waste and an increase in recycling rates.

Economic Growth: The project has stimulated the growth of the recycling industry in Türkiye, creating jobs and contributing to the economy.

Reduction in Pollution: Preliminary data indicate a noticeable decrease in pollution levels, particularly in urban areas.

Global Recognition: The project’s success has not gone unnoticed, with international bodies recognizing its impact on sustainable development. It has been recognized with UNDP’s “Sustainable Development Goals Action Award”.

A Case Study: Istanbul City

The Zero Waste Project in Istanbul serves as a model for sustainable waste management in urban settings. By focusing on waste segregation, recycling, and sustainable urban planning, the project contributes significantly to creating a cleaner, healthier, and more livable city. The success of this project can be a valuable reference for other cities aiming to implement similar sustainable waste management practices.

Strategies Implemented

Sustainable Urban Planning: The project in Istanbul integrates waste management strategies into the broader context of sustainable urban planning. This approach ensures that waste management is not an isolated activity but part of a holistic plan for the city’s development.

Waste Segregation Systems: A key strategy is the implementation of effective waste segregation systems. This involves separating waste at the source, which makes recycling and other forms of waste processing more efficient.

Recycling Facilities: The establishment and enhancement of recycling facilities are crucial. These facilities handle the segregated waste, processing it for recycling, which significantly reduces the amount of waste that ends up in landfills.

Management of Urban Waste: Special measures are taken to manage urban waste, considering the high population density and the unique challenges of waste management in metropolitan areas. This includes the collection, transportation, and treatment of waste in an environmentally friendly manner.

Outcomes Achieved

Clean and Healthy Environment: One of the primary goals of the Zero Waste Project in Istanbul is to create a clean, healthy, and contemporary environment for its residents. This involves reducing pollution and improving the overall quality of life in urban areas.

Improved Livable Conditions: The project aims to enhance the livability of the city by ensuring cleaner streets, reduced waste-related odors, and a more aesthetically pleasing urban environment.

Impact on Waste Reduction: A significant outcome of the project is the reduction in the total volume of waste generated. By implementing effective segregation and recycling, the amount of waste that needs to be disposed of in landfills is considerably reduced.

Increased Recycling Rates: The project has aimed to increase the rate of recycling in Istanbul. Higher recycling rates not only reduce environmental pollution but also contribute to the conservation of resources.

Measure of Success: The key measure of success for the Zero Waste Project in Istanbul is its overall impact on waste reduction and recycling rates. The effectiveness of the project is gauged by how much it has been able to reduce the waste footprint of the city and increase the proportion of waste that is recycled.

Leadership and Advocacy

First Lady of Türkiye, Emine Erdoğan plays a significant leadership role in Türkiye’s Zero Waste Project.

She is recognized as a leading figure in the Zero Waste Movement. Her involvement has been crucial in promoting sustainable practices and waste reduction not only within Türkiye but also in setting an example on a global scale. Her leadership has been instrumental in driving the project forward and gaining recognition for its efforts.

She actively inspects and oversees the ongoing works related to the Zero Waste Project. For instance, her visits to waste centers and interactions with authorities indicate her hands-on approach in understanding and guiding the project’s implementation.

She has been associated with the project’s recognition at various levels, including receiving awards on behalf of the project. For example, the Zero Waste Project received the UNDP’s Sustainable Development Goals Action Award, which was presented to her, highlighting her role in successfully meeting the goal of “Responsible Consumption and Production”. First Lady Emine Erdoğan and United Nations (UN) Secretary General Antonio Guterres signed a declaration of goodwill to promote the “Zero Waste Project” around the world.

Under her auspices, the Zero Waste Project has expanded across Türkiye, including the establishment of zero waste districts. Her efforts have been pivotal in spreading the concept of zero waste across public institutions and municipalities, significantly contributing to the project’s expansion and success.

Türkiye’s Zero Waste Project as a Model for Sustainable Waste Management

Türkiye’s Zero Waste Project has led to significant environmental, economic, and social benefits, demonstrating how a pioneering initiative can transform a nation’s approach to waste management. With its impressive results, including the recycling of millions of tons of various waste materials, the project not only underscores Türkiye’s commitment to sustainable development but also offers a replicable model for other countries, especially in Asia.

India, facing significant waste management challenges, can find valuable insights in Türkiye’s approach. Adapting the Zero Waste Project to the Indian context requires a multi-faceted strategy. This strategy should focus on promoting sustainable consumption patterns, fostering a circular economy, and enhancing widespread awareness about waste management. As India endeavors to improve its waste management systems and achieve its sustainable development goals, Türkiye’s Zero Waste Project provides both inspiration and a practical framework for realizing these objectives.

Implementing Türkiye’s Zero Waste Project in India will require overcoming challenges such as diverse geographic and cultural landscapes, varied levels of urbanization, and existing waste management practices. However, this also presents an opportunity to innovate and create solutions tailored to India’s unique context.

In conclusion, adapting Türkiye’s Zero Waste Project for India represents an opportunity to revolutionize waste management and promote sustainable development. By leveraging the lessons learned from Türkiye’s success and tailoring strategies to India’s specific needs, India can make significant strides towards achieving its sustainability goals and setting an example for other nations in effective waste management.

Istanbul as a Good Practice Template

The success of the Zero Waste Project in Istanbul provides a valuable template for Mumbai and other similar urban areas looking to improve their waste management systems.

Mumbai can adopt and adapt Istanbul’s strategies.

Mumbai, being one of the world’s most densely populated cities, can integrate waste management into broader urban development plans, similar to Istanbul.

This could include designing new buildings and public spaces with waste segregation and recycling facilities built-in.

The Zero Waste Project in Mumbai should be scalable to accommodate the city’s growing population.

Flexibility in the approach is needed to adapt to different areas within Mumbai, considering the city’s diverse socio-economic landscape.

Collaboration with private enterprises for technology, funding, and expertise, and incentivizing businesses to adopt zero-waste practices and contribute to the city’s waste management efforts can enhance the project’s efficiency.

Encouraging local innovations in waste management, such as community composting, biogas plants, and waste-to-energy initiatives, and tailoring solutions to local needs and resources, such as utilizing Mumbai’s large informal waste collector workforce effectively could dramatically improve the efficiency of waste management.

Mumbai could increase investments in recycling facilities, learning from Istanbul’s approach to handle different types of waste effectively.

Given Mumbai’s space constraints, innovative solutions like decentralized recycling centers could be explored.

Public awareness campaigns tailored to Mumbai’s diverse population would be essential to educate residents about the importance and methods of waste segregation.

Mumbai’s coastal location and monsoon climate present specific challenges are needed to be addressed in waste management planning.

In conclusion; by learning from Istanbul’s Zero Waste Project experience and adapting its strategies to fit Mumbai’s unique context, Mumbai can make significant strides in sustainable waste management. This approach would not only address the environmental challenges but also enhance the overall quality of life in the city, setting an example for other megacities facing similar challenges.

Author Info

Cüneyt Yavuzcan,

Consul General of the Republic of Türkiye in Mumbai

Author Info

Hrithik Waje

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