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    UN chief applauds Türkiye’s Global Zero Waste Initiative, calls for end to waste cycle

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    UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged the international community on Wednesday to “end the destructive cycle of waste.”

    During an event commemorating the March 30 International Day of Zero Waste held at UN headquarters, Guterres sent a video message.

    He began by expressing gratitude to Türkiye and its first lady Emine Erdogan for their vision and leadership.

    “Our planet is drowning under a torrent of trash,” Guterres said, emphasizing that besides the known impacts, this situation leads to disease and death.

    “Overconsumption is killing us. Humanity needs an intervention,” he added.

    Ligia Noronha, UN Assistant Secretary-General and head of the New York Office of the UN Environment Program (UNEP), delivered the opening speech at the event, saying that waste “has only grown stronger since the inception of this (Zero Waste) initiative.”

    Emphasizing that waste pollution is one of the main triggers of the climate crisis, Noronha said: “There is one thing we can’t reuse: time. With only six years left to achieve the 2030 Agenda goals, using what we have, wisely, has never been more pertinent.”

    Also speaking at the event, Sedat Onal, Türkiye’s permanent representative to the UN, noted Türkiye’s active role in promoting sustainable consumption and production models while also raising awareness about zero waste initiatives through the Zero Waste Initiative launched by Erdogan’s leadership in 2017.

    “Embracing the principles of zero waste is our responsibility for the future generations,” he noted, adding that “there is no time to waste in the implementation of the zero-waste vision.”

    Dennis Francis, the president of the UN General Assembly, hailed Türkiye’s role in the Zero Waste initiative, saying “it was the astounding success of this that motivated the General Assembly to the adoption of a resolution tabled by the Republic of Türkiye – declaring 30 March as the International Day of Zero Waste.”

    “The journey towards Zero Waste does not by any means involve a simple unplanned destination, but rather a continuous process of learning, adaptation and innovation,” he noted.

    In a video message, Inger Andersen, the executive director of UNEP, emphasized that “we are throwing away our chance for a better future.”

    She stressed that nature does not generate waste and humanity should remember this and put an end to waste.

    In his remarks, Michal Mlynar, deputy executive director of UN-Habitat, highlighted Türkiye’s pioneering role in the context of the UN Zero Waste Resolution adopted at the General Assembly.

    “Zero Waste Day brings together stakeholders from all sectors to raise awareness about zero waste at national, regional and local levels and to promote zero-waste initiatives that contribute to sustainable development,” he said, adding “it is a great example of how multilateralism promoted in Our Common Agenda should look like.”

    Calling on all to “embrace a “waste-wise” ethos, envisioning a world free from waste,” Mlynar urged to “acknowledge our collective power to effect change, shaping a world that is not only cleaner and healthier but also fairer, more just, and prosperous for all.”

    Shannon Lisa, Global Focal Point for the Chemicals and Waste Youth Platform, said that they have members from over 150 countries and strive to incorporate “youth solutions” into the waste management process.

    Lisa stressed that zero waste should be a concern for everyone, saying “when youth and communities are allowed to lead, leaders will follow.”

    The event was organized by Türkiye’s Permanent Mission to the UN, UNEP and UN-Habitat, with moderation by Jamil Ahmad, director of Intergovernmental Relations at UNEP’s New York Office.

    It was attended by numerous ambassadors, diplomatic representatives, civil society organizations and journalists, including the President of the 78th session of the UN General Assembly, Francis.

    *Writing by Merve Aydogan in Canada

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