One of the most polluted Natura 2000 floodplain forests of the Hungarian river Tisza will be cleaned from garbage this weekend

Water experts and professionals of the PET Cup – the latter awarded with the Curator Prize at the latest Highlights of Hungary – intend to clean a Natura 2000 floodplain forest area between 28 February and 1 March. The highly polluted area between the towns of Vásárosnamény and Tiszaszalka was explored in 2018 due to waste monitoring processes, done by the PET Cup and ever since they have regularly organised waste collecting activities. The organisers hope that this program – involving more participants and supporters than ever – will be another significant step to cleaning this area of great nature protection significance. Association – the coordinators of the PET Cup – organises the cleanup jointly with the Directorate General of Water Management (OVF), the Upper-Tisza Regional Water Management Directorate (FETIVIZIG) and the Association of Environmental Service Providers and Manufacturers (KSZGYSZ). Coca‑Cola Hungary joins the program yet again through its global foundation, so Zero Waste Tisza project is responsible for the travel, accomodation and catering of volunteers.

Winter cleanup in the Szalka forest is by now a tradition, as the monitoring activity of the PET Cup found the most polluted, garbage-covered area of the Hungarian part of the Tisza here. 7 acres of Natura 2000 forest were cleaned in two years and a total of 7 tons of garbage have been so far removed from the protected habitat. More than half of the waste removed from the river bed was recycled thanks to the water management and the volunteers of the PET Cup. The flood of plastic that had arrived with the last flood was stopped by the machines of the Directorate of Water Management on the Upper Tisza Area, the previous floods, however, had polluted the area without obstacles. That is why a new intervention is needed to clean the river and the floodplain forest. Between 28 February and 1 March, experts remove recently deposited waste and clean areas that have not been reached so far. On the basis of previous experience and the high number of participants, another 3 tons of waste are expected to be collected.

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Just like last year, Coca‑Cola Hungary – through the Coca‑Cola global foundation – sends company volunteers and is responsible for the accomodation and catering of all volunteers in the framework of its project „Zero Waste Tisza”. The Directorate General of Water Management supplies its infrastructure, experts and volunteers and invites Ukrainian water experts to clean the Tiszaszalka forest, hopefully once and for all.

 The professional handling, delivery and recycling of garbage is ensured by the Association of Environmental Service Providers and Manufacturers, the National Coordination of Waste Management and Asset Management Plc and the North-Alföld Environment Management Ltd. Following the traditions of the PET Cup, selective collection, selection and compression are the most important aspects of cleanup. Materials that may be reused are given to waste recylers – with the help of public service providers –, plastic is partially processed by the PET Cup. According to previous experience, half of the carefully collected and selected waste may be reused. An industrial scale baling machine will be provided by the Directorate of Water Management on the Upper Tisza Area. Last year, 12 000 recyclable plastic bottles were compressed into 21 bales in 3 days.

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It is a known fact that most of the waste comes from Ukraine and Romania during floods. Extremely light PET bottles and mixed communal waste arrive in Hungary with Tisza and its affluents.  Thus, water authorities and the PET Cup have been looking for possibilities for Ukrainian-Hungarian cooperation for years, to remove this environment pollution problem by the roots. This year, after the negotiations and roundtable events of the previous years, there are now strong professional ties with waste management and non-governmental organizations in Kárpátalja (Ukraine), whose representatives will also participate in this event.  OVF and FETIVIZIG invited more than fifty Ukrainian water experts to take part in the cleanup.

Parallel to the cleanup of the floodplain forest, experts research and explore the whole length of the Tisza – from the source to the mouth – to see the current situation of waste and to study the precise amount of plastic accumulated in the different parts during the previous decades. The most experienced pet pirates, the leaders of the PET Cup are going to explore the Hungarian parts according to a set timetable, before leaves appear in Spring, and determine junction points with a free smartphone application. Volunteers may also join the programme at different parts of the river. The aim of the program is to create a waste map of the entire river, to make future river cleanups more efficient.