ATAA UN Related Announcement# 22

World Environment Day serves as a reminder that we all have a responsibility to protect and preserve our planet. By making sustainable choices in our daily lives, promoting eco-friendly practices, and advocating for policies that safeguard the environment, we can work together to create a healthier and more sustainable world.

Plastic, a material known for its affordability and versatility, has unfortunately become a major environmental concern. Our society’s “disposable” lifestyle has led to an alarming statistic: approximately 50% of plastic is used just once before being discarded. While plastic holds immense value, plastic pollution represents a needless and unsustainable waste of this precious resource. Plastic pollution refers to the accumulation of plastic waste in our environment, including bodies of water like oceans, rivers, and lakes, as well as on land. This global issue has far-reaching consequences for ecosystems, wildlife, and human health.

The largest market segment for plastic is packaging, accounting for over 40% of total plastic usage. Shockingly, around 500 billion plastic bags are used worldwide every year, with over a million bags consumed every minute. Surprisingly, the average lifespan of a plastic bag is a mere 15 minutes. To put things into perspective, in the past decade alone, we have produced more plastic than in the entire previous century.

According to the Container Recycling Institute, the United States alone sold 100.7 billion plastic beverage bottles in 2014, equivalent to 315 bottles per person. Of these bottles, 57% were plastic water bottles, totaling 57.3 billion sold in 2014. Compare this to the 3.8 billion plastic water bottles sold in 1996, the earliest year for which data is available. Astonishingly, producing a single bottle of water requires around six times the volume of water contained within it. When we account for bottle caps and labels, beverage containers contribute to 14% of all litter, and the actual number is likely higher.

As the Assembly of Turkish American Associations, we recognize the pressing challenge our world currently faces plastic pollution and its detrimental impact on the environment. We are actively collaborating with our component associations and communities to raise awareness and combat this issue.

We wholeheartedly endorse the #BeatPlasticPollution movement, and our primary focus is to promote the 3R approach—Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle—as a collective effort to put an end to plastic pollution.

It is undeniable that our world is teeming with remarkable individuals who consistently strive to make a difference, refusing to yield to adversity. These extraordinary individuals deserve our unwavering support, access to relevant information, and the knowledge that they are not alone in their endeavors.

We believe that together, we can tackle this significant environmental challenge. Please remember to reduce, reuse and recycle next time you use a plastic and educate people around you to #BeatPlasticPolution

Here’s how we believe we can actively contribute and become an essential part of the solution.

Raise Awareness: Educate yourself and others about the issue at hand. Stay informed through reliable sources, research, and discussions. Share your knowledge with friends, family, and your community to increase awareness.

Engage in Dialogue: Initiate conversations that promote understanding and constructive dialogue. Listen to diverse perspectives and encourage respectful discussions. This helps foster empathy, collaboration, and the exchange of ideas.

Take Action: Identify specific actions you can take to address the problem. Whether it’s volunteering your time, donating resources, or participating in advocacy campaigns, your individual efforts can create a significant impact when combined with others.

Support Organizations: Research and support organizations or initiatives that are actively working towards finding solutions. Contribute your skills, resources, or funds to further their cause and amplify their impact.

Be a Responsible Consumer: Make informed choices as a consumer. Support companies and products that align with your values and promote sustainable practices. Reduce waste, recycle, and consider the environmental and social impact of your purchases.

Lead by Example: Embody the change you wish to see in the world. Be a role model for others by living a responsible and compassionate life. Inspire those around you to join you in becoming part of the solution.

Remember, every effort, no matter how small, contributes to the collective solution. Together, we can make a meaningful difference and create a brighter future for everyone.

Levent Onat, PhD
ATAA Southeast Region Vice President
Assembly of Turkish American Associations –  ATAA

Dr. Levent Onat is from Izmir, Turkey. He lived in seven different cities in Turkey when he was growing up and he also had a chance to travel all around the country before he started exploring the rest of the world. He earned his B.S. and M.S. degrees from Dokuz Eylul University in Environmental Engineering. He worked as a researcher at the University of Stuttgart for several years and worked as an environmental engineer for the private sector in Turkey. After he moved to the United States, he earned another M.S. degree from Auburn University in environmental engineering and earned his Ph.D. degree from the University of Alabama at Birmingham in interdisciplinary engineering with the focus of health, safety and environmental (HSE) engineering. He has over 20 years of experience as an HSE Professional with multi-industrial background such as chemical, oil & gas, foundry, automotive, wood manufacturing and academia. He is also an authorized outreach instructor/trainer for the Department of Labor’s Occupational Health and Safety Administration. He currently works as the regional HSE manager for an industrial gas company covering five states with over 20 sites.  Mr. Onat has been actively involved and served in Turkish student organizations and Turkish-American Associations since he moved to the United States. He currently serves in the U.N. Committee of the Assembly of Turkish American Associations (ATAA). He is also the President of Turkish American Association of Alabama (TAAA). Mr. Onat has been living in Alabama with his wife since 2001 and enjoys traveling, swimming, designing/repairing electronics, and spending quality time with his family.