Seeing a Greener Future in a Garbage Dump

landfill garbage machinery photo

Photograph of a Calgary, Alberta, landfill by D'Arcy Norman via Flickr.

Not long ago, visitors driving into Turkey's capital city of Ankara from the airport were greeted by a horrendous smell: the decomposing waste at the Mamak Landfill alongside the highway. Today, the same facility is being praised as a model for the entire country -- a source of heat and energy, and the type of green jobs that could help Turkey climb out of the global financial crisis.

"All the garbage from Ankara comes here to be sorted and then becomes gas and compost. In turn, the heat is brought here to grow tomatoes," World Bank Managing Director Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said on a recent visit to the site. "You have Turkish engineers recycling waste via machines they designed themselves.... This is fabulous."

Less Pollution, Better Soil, And New Jobs Too
The World Bank provided $8 million to help turn the landfill into a garbage-recycling station that creates heat and energy for local greenhouses. A bio-digester at the facility treats organic waste and produces biogas that is then used to generate up to 30 MW of electricity.

Developers are seeking Gold Standard VER status -- a certification of social and environmental benefits backed by 50 NGOs, including WWF -- for the project, which is reducing leakage into underground waters, improving soil conditions, lowering the risk of methane-gas explosions, and providing jobs for local people, including some of those who had previously made a meager living scavenging the landfill's waste.

Economics, Ecology Intertwined
Okonjo-Iweala held up the landfill as an example of how Turkey should focus on alternative-energy sources to improve its position in regard to both economic and energy crises, a theme also sounded by participants at a recent conference on a "Green New Deal" for Turkey.

"Economics and ecology are not separate causes," Miriam Kenneth, a member of the Green Economics Institute at Oxford University, said at the Istanbul conference. "A Green New Deal opens new horizons for finance, since it demands different kinds of investments."

'A Green New Deal For Turkey Is A Must'
Added Ahmet Atıl Aşıcı from Istanbul Technical University: "In order to overcome poverty in Turkey, a Green New Deal is a must.... The government has launched a stimulus package, but nothing in the package includes renewable energy or green economy."

In an effort to change this situation, the World Bank has given the first financing from its new Clean Technology Fund to renewable-energy programs in Turkey.

"Those countries that are first and boldest in the area of climate change, energy efficiency, and renewable energy" will reap rewards, Okonjo-Iweala told a meeting of the Turkish Industrialists' and Businessmen's Association (TÜSİAD) in the Turkish coastal city of Bodrum last week, noting that "building innovative investments in clean and efficient energy" is among the economic and environmental reforms that "will serve as a spring board for high long-run growth and an enhanced regional and global role for Turkey."

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