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Food Waste Around the World, Episode 26: Turkey

Food Waste Around the World is a Food Circle’s project aimed at providing information and raising awareness about food waste. The project is designed as a series of interviews with students coming from different countries with the aim of understanding how this issue is tackled and perceived around the world. This is made possible thanks to Sapient, the mother company of Food Circle, which every year offers internships to students from all around the world creating a unique multicultural environment.

Today we speak with Ecem from Turkey!

"Restaurants and hotels generate most of the bread waste in Turkey. Whenever you go to a restaurant, they bring you bread for free as soon as you order anything, which triggers people to eat or at least touch the bread. "


Hi Ecem, welcome to this interview and thank you for participating in the project ‘Food Waste Around the World’. To start, can you tell me where you are from and a little bit about yourself?

Hi! My name is Ecem, and I am from Istanbul, Turkey. I lived in Istanbul for 18 years, and before entering university, I studied in Zurich, Switzerland, with an AFS exchange program for my senior year of high school. There I had a chance to live with a host family for a year and get ready for a multicultural environment. After my exchange year, I moved to Ankara, to the capital of Turkey, to study City and Regional Planning at METU. Upon graduating, I worked for a project called “Building Communities through Volunteering’ in Baia Mare, Romania, within the scope of the European Solidarity Corps. The project was aimed at promoting volunteering and social responsibility to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals in local communities. Now here I am with you and the Sapient family in the Food Circle, Social Media and Marketing department.

Interesting! What is the food waste situation in Turkey? Is it a big issue?

The research shows that the most significant amount of food waste comes from bread, which is approximately 2 billion tons annually, costing about 200 billion Turkish liras. This quantity equals four times the overall volume of exported fruits and vegetables. Restaurants and hotels generate most of the bread waste in Turkey. Whenever you go to a restaurant, they bring you bread for free as soon as you order anything, which triggers people to eat or at least touch the bread. Consequently, it cannot be used for other customers and gets thrown away.

Who is driving attention or raising awareness on the food waste issue? Is it the government, or are there any NGOs and small communities?

In general, NGOs drive attention and raise awareness about the food waste issue in Turkey. There are also some civil movements promoting it on social media, such as Refika’nin Mutfagi and Kokopelli Şehirde. For example, Kokopelli Şehirde is a social business. They are making and selling Bokashi bins from recycled materials. These organisations and civil actions are transforming food into fertilisers and using them in agriculture.

Do you think that the government will do more in the future? Is food waste a priority on its agenda?

There are some regulations from the government like Turuncu Bayrak (International Orange Flag), which is a system that is made to prevent food waste in businesses. It will bring profit to businesses, improve the image, and be prioritised by customers. In my idea, if the government keeps working on this project and develops it with more rules, food waste can be prevented in Turkey.

The last thing. What could be possible next steps to be taken by the different organisations? Do you think it needs to come from the community following a bottom-up approach or top-down from the government?

I believe that the civic movements should come from the bottom-up approach, from so-called grassroots movements, where the society has both the right and power to change and develop itself. In Turkey’s case, the central government controls local governments; local governments are weaker than the central government. I do not think this movement will be possible to achieve from the bottom-up.

Thank you for the interview!


Interviewer: Anastasia Arkhipova

Interviewed: Gül Ecem

Organisations mentioned in the interview: Refika’nin Mutfagi, Kokopelli Şehirde, Turuncu Bayrak.

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