Disposing of Hazardous Waste Safely
By Professor Dr Orhan Ince, Istanbul Technical University
Turkey is a country that has critical, natural and biological reserves at the global level which has various kinds of ecosystems such as wetland, mountain, forest, coastal and marine. Due to having geographical regions differ in climate and soil characteristics, our country has a high level of biodiversity richness and is a host of numerous types of flora and fauna. If it is compared with Europe, the fauna richness of Turkey can be understood better. It is known that, Europe has almost 12,500 plant species while only Anatolian Peninsula has about 11,000 plant species. In addition, our country is characterized as one of the richest countries for endemic species in the Mediterranean region which has almost one third of this rich flora is endemic species.
Moreover, flora of Turkey has a substantial amount of medical and aromatic plants. Besides this, our country attracts attention through being a host for different kinds of animal population. After awareness of nature conservation started to pervade through the world in the 1960s, systematic studies have been started for nature protection in our country.
As it is known that Turkey is a developing country, and industrial activities have been raised in last 30-40 years. Preparation of development plans has caused the development of industries in a planned manner and given the priority to industrialization since 1963. Because of an increasing population, rapid urbanization and industrialization, human activities cause pressure on environmental compartments. Thus, amount of wastes are increasing day by day and threatening the unique ecosystem of our country.
A material becomes waste when it is discarded and it may have a potential hazard to the human health or the ecosystem when improperly treated, stored, transported or disposed off. Unlike regular wastes, hazardous wastes are much more dangerous for ecosystems, due to their features such as toxicity, corrosivity, ignitability or reactivity. Briefly, hazardous waste is a waste with characteristics that make it dangerous or potentially harmful to human health or the environment. It should be managed all together with the social, political and economical aspects of the ecosystem instead of conventional treatment and disposal techniques because of its composition, constituents, physical form, fate and transport in the environment.
The total amount of hazardous wastes, which are produced from several industrial, commercial, agricultural or even from domestic activities, generated in Turkey was estimated as around 1 million tons per year. Waste materials have an increasing impact on the environment and this is due to the rapid growth in industry. Disposal of hazardous wastes without giving harm to nature and to human health is the main aim of waste management. So, the treatment and elimination of hazardous pollutants is an important issue in Turkey and management of hazardous wastes including their disposal in environmental friendly ways is the first priority for protecting and preserving the ecology and biodiversity.
In our country, waste management has been the subject of a number of legal arrangements starting from the 1930s. According to the data obtained from Turkish Statistical Institute, only 7% of hazardous waste incinerated or land filled properly by İZAYDAŞ, which is the unique hazardous waste treatment facility in Turkey and 40% of the hazardous waste is recovered. Besides, rest of these types of wastes are dumped to the ecosystem and threaten not only natural habitat but also human health.
Environmental issues are being more important in Turkey as a result of increasing environmental awareness and legislations which are stricter nowadaysm, owing to the accession process of Turkey to the European Union (EU). In this context, many arrangements about waste management as parts of environmental legislations are available for the protection and improvement of environment. Turkey has been party to the Basel Convention on Control of Trans-boundary Movement of Waste since 1994. The Regulation on the Control of Hazardous Wastes was prepared, based on the Environmental Law and the Basel Agreement with a view to establishing a hazardous waste management system, and it came into effect in 1995, and this Regulation was rearranged and harmonized with the EU Acquis in 2005. So, waste problems are accepted and acknowledged as a priority for Turkey, and policies are being developed to overcome this problem.
Pollution both on land and at sea has been dangerous for biological reserves. In our country, increasing environmental sensitivity and applying proper legislation have been envisaged to solve these kinds of possible waste problems. Also, in spite of the financing of waste disposal facilities requiring high costs, the Turkish government supports and encourages the private sector by means of built-operate, and built-operate-transfer methods.
Consequently, on one hand, high levels of biodiversity richness offers important opportunities for our country. On the other hand they impose great responsibility. Thus, it should be noted that, protecting this richness means protecting of natural resources. Particular importance must be given to this issue, so as to successfully convert this cultural richness into economic interests.
Professor Dr Orhan Ince is Chair of Microbial Ecology Group, Istanbul Technical University, Environmental Engineering Department, Maslak, Istanbul, TURKEY; and Founder of ENGY Environmental and Energy Technologies Biotechnology R&D Company Bosphorous University BUN Technopark, No:305, Bebek, Istanbul, TURKEY