Shoes, bottles, PET bottles and many other kinds of garbage pollute the River Tisza, its floodplains and reed beds. Volunteers of Coca‑Cola Hungary and Plastic Cup collected more than 1.8 tonnes of waste on the Tisza section off the Kisköre Dam, within the framework of Zero Waste Tisza program, on last Friday. This was the second event of the program which was organised as part of World Cleanup Day and surpassed its debut in July when 1,5 tonnes of waste had been removed from the river. The initiative was joined by the Kayak Olympic Champion Ákos Verekckei.

The Tisza and the Tisza Lake have astonishing natural assets beloved by many Hungarian and foreign tourists as a holiday resort and fishing spot. However, a large amount of driftwood, organic material and communal waste are washed down here most of them originating from Ukraine and Romania. The Kisköre Dam is the first facility in the Hungarian section of the river which can stop the flood of waste thus protecting the lower sections.

This problem needs joint efforts to be tackled effectively. Water management authorities, civilian and industry players – the National Directorate General for Water Management, Plastic Cup and Coca‑Cola Hungary – announced jointly in the summer of 2019 that they were prepared to manage the challenge collectively. Plastic Cup has held waste collecting activities on the Upper Tisza for years, which the Coca‑Cola joined so that they could help manage the situation with a financial support of HUF 73 million provided by the global foundation of the company and its employees’ volunteer work. Therefore, the program Zero Waste Tisza was launched this summer aimed at providing a constant protection, waste collection and recycling – namely cleaning up the river in an increasing proportion.

In the first action in this summer, 70 volunteers of the company collected a total of 1.5 tonnes of waste assisted by Plastic Cup. This time, to join the second activity, almost 100 employees of Coca‑Cola Hungary showed up in the vicinity of Kisköre and Dinnyéshát on the 27th of September. By this means, they supported the objectives of the World Cleanup Day which took place on 21st of September.

Many of the volunteers got on canoes while others stayed on the dry land and collected litre from the surface of the water, reeds and floodplains, then they sorted out the waste so that suitable pieces of them could be recycled. “With this initiative, we want to disburden nature of a good load of waste and hand them over to circular economy” – one of the volunteers from Coca‑Cola said. His colleague added that they encountered with a large amount of waste of very different kinds. “We have found sneakers, slippers, bottles, even a shattered dustbin too. The amount of waste was extremely large”. Enthusiasm were just growing as the number of garbage bags and the cleaned territory in sight was increasing. “It is a very rewarding feeling to see the many hundreds of bags and to feel that me myself had a contribution to it” – another volunteer said.

The outcome of the second action surpassed that of the first one: this time 170 bags of waste corresponding to 1.8 tonnes had been removed from the Tisza. Among the waste collected communal waste, glasses, metals and objects made of PET could be found. Most of them had been sorted out based on their type at the spot.

The two-time Olympic, six-time world champion Ákos Vereckei also participated in the event.

I saw a film many years ago about Plastic Cup and it won me right away, because it matched both my love of nature and my feeling of comfort when being on the river which I inherited from my past as a sportsman - he said.

The Olympic champion turned to the organisers back then and became the chief patron of Plastic Cup in 2015, only to become a Master of PET in 2018.

Besides my previous commitment now I joined the volunteer day of Zero Waste Tisza project because I would like to make the situation known to as many people as possible and encourage them and my own immediate community to act. It is important to educate the next generation about environmental consciousness. My children, when they joined Plastic Cup, were shocked to realize where it leads us if we remain so careless with littering. Once I heard a very appropriate sentence that I feel especially valid today: Think globally and act locally!
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