The barbershop tradition in Turkey is far more vibrant than the Hair Cutteries of America. In Turkey, men gather for their weekly shave and catch up on the politics du jour while drinking strong muddy coffee often laced with cardamom. The barber is naturally a key figure in this street culture, so when he takes an environmental or social stand, people pay attention.
Rasim Uyan was promoted as last week’s “Changemaker” – a Hacı Ömer Sabancı Foundation program in Turkey that recognizes 64 individuals who promote social development, community engagement and education – for turning his small shop in Kocaeli into a mini recycling center.
Recycling culture in Turkey not great
Although slightly better off than Egypt or Lebanon, where trash permeates almost every aspect of daily life, Turkey’s recycling culture is still in its infancy. Some facilities exist in major urban centers, but most people either aren’t aware of them, or they simply aren’t convenient to use.
This is slowly changing though. Zeki Terzioglu, head of waste management department at the environment ministry, said the ministry aims to follow EU legislation to bolster the country’s waste management system.
“We are merging 12 regulations under one to simplify the legal framework for the benefit of the private sector interested in recycling,” he told SE Times. “We instruct municipalities to inform the public about the benefit of recycling through conferences, publications.”
The Changemaker program isn’t specifically devoted to environmental issues, but it has shone the spotlight on several individuals whose mission is to protect Turkey’s natural resources. Uyan is one of them.
Every day is Earth Day
“I am environment-friendly not for one day but every day,” Uyan told Turkey’s Hurriyet Daily News in a recent interview.
Referring to the now very popular annual Earth Day event designed to mobilize the world’s attention to natural crises and wonders, the barber says he has engaged in environmental stewardship every day for the last 25 years.
The Changemaker’s program started in 2009, but Uyan started rewarding his customers for earth-friendly gestures without prompting from any organization.
Anyone who shows up with five kilograms of wasted batteries gets a free cut and shave. Same goes for 50 glass or plastic bottles, 500 bottle caps or ten planted trees.
It’s like a loyalty program that comes with the additional benefit of cleaner streets and air.
As a result of his efforts, according to Hurriyet, the Environmental Protection and Packaging Waste Recovery and Recycling Trust (CEVKO) has installed recycling bins in many schools in the region and the Izmit Waste and Residue Treatment, Incineration and Recycling Inc. (IZAYDAS) has begun to promote proper battery disposal as well.
It just goes to show that the actions of one man can make a significant difference.