Plastic kayak, Safe Water Access Point, GPS based waste tracking and more than 100 tons of waste collected – these are the results of the Zero Waste Tisza River program so far

A series of unique innovations - plastic kayaks, a Safe Water Access Point, a GPS-based waste tracking bottle, the first River Rescue Centre on the Tisza - and the collection of more than 100 tons of waste are the results so far of the Zero Waste Tisza River program launched in 2019 by Plastic Cup, the National Water Directorate General and Coca-Cola Hungary, with the support of The Coca-Cola Foundation, the company's global charity.

Although it will take more time to completely clean up the Tisza, the project, which has been running for four years, has achieved significant results in both the Hungarian and Transcarpathian areas. Its main achievements are innovations that all aim to prevent waste from entering rivers, to learn more about the way waste travels along rivers and how to give new life and value to river waste.

The pet pirates are known for the fact that nothing is impossible for them, and even if they don't succeed at first, they keep trying until the research and development yields results. 

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In the eleven years since the river waste collection movement was established, we have learned that the impact of the work invested is multiplied when the right partners are on board. During the Zero Waste Tisza River project, we are not only working closely with Coca-Cola Hungary and the National Water Directorate General, but we also cooperate with various organizations and companies involved in waste management, recycling, production, research and development, both within and beyond our borders. It is a true collaboration that has resulted in the creation of the River Saving Products and the River Rescue Centre, the Plastic Cup's waste sorting and processing base in Kisköre, which is also an educational centre, supporting the clean-up of the Tisza River.

Miklós Gyalai-Korpos coordinator for innovation at the Plastic Cup

Learn more about the journey of waste!

In addition to prevention, as well as collection, sorting and processing of riverine waste in the river basin, the Plastic Cup also focuses on research into plastic pollution in rivers. After all, if we know the patterns of pollution, the river clean-up missions have a better chance of success! Experts wanted to know how fast the bottles travel down the rivers, the distance they can cover in a given time, where, why and for how long they get stuck. Bottle marking was carried out for two years using a variety of technologies. After overcoming technical challenges, the data can now be collected continuously and reliably, thanks to the improvements made by Waterscope Ltd. The device placed in the PET bottle works via GPS satellite link: every 15 minutes it turns on the GPS and measures the geographical coordinates. If the movement exceeds 200 meters, the new location of the bottle will also appear on the tracking system map. The most significant development is the device's energy management, which ensures that unexpected situations are handled in an energy-efficient way.

After travelling around 300 kilometers in a week, in January 2022, one of the special GPS-equipped bottles eventually stopped at the Kisköre Water Steps. It is a significant achievement on a global scale to have been able to track the movement of plastic pollution on the river over such a long period. The fact that the bottle did not get through proves that the Kisköre Water Steps are a real protective barrier against pollution in the lower reaches of the river. During floods, it can hold up to 600 cubic meters of waste, some 6,000 tons.

River Rescue Centre Kisköre

Thanks to the cooperation of the water directorate general, the first Plastic Cup River Rescue Centre was built in the vicinity of the Kisköre Water Steps, a community space and work area where, as a result of the waste treatment and sorting infrastructure, waste could be carefully sorted and prepared for recycling on a regular basis. More than half of the waste recovered is recycled here. During open days and team-building programs, the Kisköre base becomes an exciting knowledge centre for waste management practices, where the pet pirates show visitors how waste can become a valuable product again.

Watercraft made of waste from the Tisza: the first generation of plastic kayaks

A long-standing wish of the pet pirates has been fulfilled with the creation of the river rescue kayak fleet. To make a kayak, about 300 kilograms of waste has to be collected from the river and its floodplain, from which, thanks to careful and professional sorting, about 20 kilograms of HDPE plastic, suitable as kayak material, can be recovered. It took hundreds of hours of experimentation, methodology development and volunteer work to collect, sort, wash and shred the waste, which was then pulverized by Polyduct Plc. in Nádudvar, and finally, thanks to a German company, it was given the shape of a kayak. In fact, it only resembled a kayak in appearance, because this first prototype could not yet sail.

The next kayak, made of more homogeneous material, was not the right one either, and in the end the third attempt led to success, and with the involvement of Hungarian partners - Holofon Zrt. and HD-Rotatech Kft. - the touring kayaks were made, which will also support the river rescue work. The kayaks, like many other products made of river plastic, are now available in Plastic Cup's webshop.

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Technological innovations with community features for clean drinking water

The main purpose of the Safe Water Access Point (SWAP), which performs both sanitation and community functions, is to provide safe drinking water from rivers in places where the public water supply does not allow it. The heart of the renewed used container is a water purification unit developed by Budapest Hydro Ltd. that can supply drinking water from natural water sources, rivers and streams. In order to protect the cleanliness of rivers, the Safe Water Access Point will also serve as a collection point for plastic and recyclable waste, which is important in areas where separate waste collection and waste shipment are not available. In Ukraine, at the source of the Tisza River, a lot of plastic waste is discharged into the river due to the lack of public services. The Safe Water Access Point addresses this challenge and also play an awareness-raising role about the importance of clean rivers.

Kling Ltd, Storque and IKEA also contributed to the design and equipment of the container. The Safe Water Access Point can be visited in the courtyard of the Dürer Garden in Budapest until March 2024 (by prior appointment).

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Volunteers involved to clean up the river

Coca-Cola Hungary also contributed to the success of the program by involving employees. Together with Plastic Cup volunteers they cleaned the river in the Tisza Lake area.  

Coca-Cola is committed to achieving a world without waste, so we are delighted to have been able to participate in this thoughtful program, which has achieved spectacular results, for many years through The Coca-Cola Foundation, our global charity, since 2019.  So far, our colleagues have joined the river clean-up 8 times, freeing the Tisza from a total of about 11 tons of waste.

Judit Tóth Szalóky Head of Corporate Relations, Communications and Sustainability at Coca-Cola Hungary

The Plastic Cup (formerly Termé Association captured the results of the program with short films, to show the public the extraordinary work that is being done for the river. As a summary of the results of the Zero Waste Tisza River program, their latest film, The River Saving Kayak, will soon be released, which shows the environmental challenge and the practical recycling of waste through the development of plastic kayaks.

Short films: