Csaba Kőrösi, President of the 77th session of the General Assembly
High-level Meeting on Zero Waste
30 March 2023
(As delivered by Ambassador Aksoltan Ataeva, Permanent Representatives of Turkmenistan and Vice President of the General Assembly, who delivered the remarks on behalf of the President of the General Assembly)
UN Secretary-General António Guterres,
First Lady of Türkiye, H.E. Emine Erdoğan,
UN-Habitat Executive Director, Maimunah Mohd Sharif,
Ladies and gentlemen,
I commend Türkiye for raising awareness about the potential of zero-waste initiatives in fostering environmentally sound waste reduction and management, and promoting sustainable development.
My thanks as well to First Lady Emine Erdoğan for championing Türkiye’s national success in promoting zero waste as part of the global push to tackle climate change.
I also applaud the General Assembly for doing its part to turn this important cause into a tool for transformative policy-making.
“Everything is linked together, everything is inseparable,” as the saying goes.
Promoting zero-waste initiatives can have a profound impact on our efforts to fulfill the 17 Goals of our 2030 Agenda – particularly Goals 11, 12, 13 and 14.
Let me start with a terrifying figure.
The world generates 2.01 billion tonnes of municipal solid waste annually – a number expected to grow to 3.40 billion by 2050.
That means each day, each one of us generates 0.74 kilograms of garbage – which is about the weight of a wireless keyboard and a ketchup bottle, or a box of cereal and a loaf of bread.
When we throw something away, it does not disappear. It goes somewhere.
This is why our oceans are filled with plastic.
Our air is polluted with toxic gasses.
And our landfills are overflowing.
We are destroying our planet at an alarming rate.
The risks of delaying action are clear: more pollution, more environmental degradation, more health risks, and more economic losses.
The World Bank estimates that by 2050, the cost of environmental damage from mismanaged waste could reach $375 billion per year, more than double the current amounts.
But there is a solution.
We have the power to embrace the circular economy of reduce, reuse, and recycle.
To transform the way we produce and consume goods and services.
Achieving zero waste is not just an environmental issue; it is a social and economic issue.
Transitioning to a circular economy could generate $4.5 trillion in economic benefits by 2030.
Investing in waste management could create up to 15 million jobs globally by 2030.
All, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 39 per cent.
These are the numbers behind the General Assembly’s decision to proclaim today, the first ever observance of the International Day of Zero Waste – an initiative led by Türkiye.
Türkiye took in some 11.4 million tonnes of waste from EU countries last year – triple the amount in 2004 – helping to advance sustainable development throughout the European Union.
The Zero-Waste project, initiated by First Lady Erdoğan in 2017, also added $2.3 billion to the Turkish economy, thanks to the large amount of material and food saved from reducing waste.
This is one of many success stories around the world:
The Republic of Korea currently recycles 95 per cent of its food waste, up from 2 per cent in 1995.
The African Union has set an ambitious target for African cities to recycle at least 50 per cent of the waste they generate by 2023, with estimates showing the continent could inject $8 billion annually into its economy.
And across Nepal, municipalities are working with local communities and the private sector to introduce innovative approaches, including a “zero waste centre” in Tinchuli which is training local women and youth to repurpose and sell recycled products.
I also commend the work led by UN Habitat and UNEP as lead agencies, as well as FAO and UNIDO, in elevating the issue of zero waste within global efforts to promote sustainable consumption and production – and support the 2030 Agenda.
Today, we are here to raise awareness of the national, regional, and local zero-waste initiatives and their contribution to achieving sustainable development.
Engaging Member States, UN agencies, civil society, the private sector and academia is the only way for us to genuinely learn from each other and accelerate progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.
By sharing these experiences in developing and implementing solid waste management solutions and technologies, we can take a holistic approach to tackling the challenges before us.
As we listen to each other, please keep in mind that zero-waste is a journey, not a destination.
And we are on it together.
I thank you.
All PGA statements are available online at https://www.un.org/pga/77/documents/statements/
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