With the latest GPS bottles, the waste’s path can be tracked on the map

A new chapter has begun in the exploration of our rivers’ waste situation. As part of PLASTIC Cup’s research and development program, experts released three plastic bottles equipped with GPS transmitters into the river, which can transmit real-time data and show on a map where the bottles are. The research will look at how far and how quickly plastic waste floats on rivers, which floodplains stop it, when will it continue to move, and whether it reaches the sea. This is the first attempt to follow the bottles real-time on the PLASTIC Cup’s map. The first bottle is already floating in Bodrog and two additional transmitter bottles will be released within a few days, when the tidal wave and the water level is right, via a live Facebook stream by experts of the PLASTIC Cup in Olaszliszka.

Most plastic bottles come with the flow and accumulates in floodplain forests. The PLASTIC Cup’s clean-up actions have collected 160 tonnes of waste over the past eight years, cleaned several protected areas, and thanks to their effective work, the number of cleaned and maintained floodplain forests are rising. Waste mapping plays a key role in their clean-up actions: the more they learn about pollution, the more effective their river rescue actions can become.

jelado-palack-1 jelado-palack-1

The Plastic Cup’s waste collection vessel, PETII has been working on the flooding Bodrog for days. Experts let bottles equipped with the latest GPS transmitter into the river from the ship's deck.

The traditional “bottle mail”, a handwritten message in a bottle, has already proved many times that waste can travel hundreds of river kilometres within a year. In the spring of 2019, PLASTIC Cup volunteers released their first message, written on paper and symbolically wrapped in a Ukrainian half-litre vodka bottle, into the water, and it was found later that year at the Kisköre dam. It is now a well-known fact how much waste this water facility protects the lower sections of the river from.

Commissioned by the PLASTIC Cup, the latest GPS bottles was developed by Waterscope Zrt., a highly innovative team in the field of domestic water management, who have been supporting the PLASTIC Cup with their water quality tests and experiences for years. Using modern technology, the device in the bottle operates with a GPS satellite connection: it turns on the GPS every 15 minutes and measures the geographical coordinates. If the distance is longer than 200 meters, the new location of the bottle will appear on the tracking system’s map.

By observing transmitter bottles, the aim of the PLASTIC Cup research is to gain certainty that waste pollution in seas and oceans is an environmental issue that is a shared responsibility of all of us and affects landlocked countries as well as coastal ones. According to their hypothesis, some bottles float from headwaters straight to inlets and oceans.

jelado-palack-2 jelado-palack-2

The first step in preventing pollution is to know the path of waste. Pictured here is a fridge floating on Bodrog.

The biggest achievement of this development is that anybody can track where the bottles are on our latest public map. This way we can present another exciting result to our volunteers, supporters, and the general public who are actively interested in environmental protection. And in the long-term, we will get closer to eliminating pollution by analyzing the data.

Miklós Gyalai-Korpos Project Manager of the research program

The research is financed by The Coca-Cola Foundation, sponsor of the Zero Waste Tisza River project: they provide the necessary financial support for the technical development, testing, and monitoring of the transmitter bottles.

jelado-palack-3 jelado-palack-3

River Rescuers in action – sorting out waste is an essential part of the river rescue work.

Despite the harsh weather, Plastic Cup experts and volunteers have been on the PETII waste collector ship’s board for days. Not only they are releasing GPS transmitter bottles into the water, but they are also collecting waste to keep the cleaned areas from decontamination. They collect waste floating on the water with their specially designed boat, which has foldable arms and a tilting basket at front. Their work is supported by the North-Hungarian Water Directorate, the Olaszliszka council, SONAR lifeguards, the team, as well as the ferrymen and water-guards of the area.