The PET Cup tracks the waste’s path with transmitter bottles

Experts of the PET Cup let PET bottles equipped with GPS into the river, with the help of the Upper Tisza Diving and Lifeguard Organization. The four bottles thrown into the flooding Tisza at Vásárosnamény are helping the PET Cup’s waste monitoring program. During the tracking research, the bottles receive GPS signals and transmit radio signals. The devices developed within the Zero Waste Tisza project can help to track the waste’s path that floats on the river for up to two years. The electronically marked bottles – Táltos (Dasher), Villám (Vixen), Táncos (Dancer) and Pompás (Prancer) – got their names in an internet naming campaign.

How did the transmitter PET bottles get into River Tisza?

Many of us already knew that plastic bottles come with the flood, and most of them are accumulated as waste in floodplain forests. However, experts still don’t know how fast dirt travels and what distance can bottles take on the river. It is also not clear yet that once the bottles have accumulated somewhere, what is the chance that the next flood will carry them forward.

Volunteers of the PET Cup spend a lot of time on Tisza and they have found messages placed inside bottles several times. For example, at last year's Upper Tisza PET Cup, they discovered a love letter written in Ukrainian, which had been on the road for nine years.

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During the flood mission of the M.V. Petényi “waste eater boat” last year, ( PET Cup pirates released a few PET bottles with simple messages written on paper inside, hoping that they will hear from them again. The video shows at 2 minutes and 28 seconds how the PET pirates marked the half-liter Ukrainian PET vodka bottle. This bottle was found within the same year, in December 2019 by Bence Párdy, a PET pirate, in the Winter Port of Kisköre, directly above the dam.

This uniquely marked PET bottle is the first tangible evidence that plastic waste can travel up to hundreds of kilometers on a river per year" – said Attila Dávid Molnár, PET Cup’s co-founder and the captain of the M.V. Petényi boat. “Also, an important information that it did not get further than Kisköre, indicating that the dam really protected the lower sections of the river from pollution as a line of defense.” The distance between the two sites is more than 280 kilometers on water, which this bottle took in just a few months.

Renewed bottle post

The traditional bottle post is a simple and inexpensive method of marking, that could be compared to bird ringing, which has many advantages, but its disadvantage is that the more time elapses between marking and collecting, the more difficult it is to evaluate the results. To gather more accurate data, PET Cup experts have turned to modern technology.

They requested Quini Kft. to make the special transmitter bottles, which receive signals from GPS satellites and communicate their whereabouts to the outside world via radio. According to the first reports, three bottles floated on the waves of the Tisza without any obstacles between Vásárosnamény and Záhony and covered a distance of 60 river kilometers in 11-12 hours.

The Coca‑Cola Foundation, sponsor of the Zero Waste Tisza program provided the financial support for the research that is needed for the technical development, testing and monitoring of the transmitter bottles.

The naming process

PET Cup announced the internet naming campaign last December and as a result of a public vote, the names of Santa’s reindeers were chosen. The godmother is Kriszta G., who got by far the most votes:

Transmitter bottle research comes with a number of other exciting questions, such as whether a water damage control point is blocking the bottles’ way, or is it just Kisköre that stops them below? Or is it the PET pirates’ activities that inspires other people to collect the garbage? If this is true, we’re waiting for the heroes to show themselves! Maybe the bottle leaves the country and only the Iron Gate or the Black Sea can stop it? There are many questions and hypotheses, and the research is trying to answer them.

#hulladekmentestisza #zerowastetisza #gpsinthebottle