Since 2013, the Plastic Cup competition has given way to over 330 tons of garbage being fished out of water bodies in Hungary.
Climate change is as real as the food we eat and the people we meet. With what is happening to the world and the weather, if humans don't do better, we might not be able to survive it. That is why, every step toward making the world more habitable and decreasing pollution helps.
In this vein, hundreds of people in Tiszaroff, Hungary, are doing their best each year to combat water pollution. Every year since 2013, participants of the Annual Plastic Cup Competition have gathered over 330 tons (roughly 727000 pounds) of garbage from the Tisza as well as other Hungarian water bodies. It is a 10-day competition that has around 150 participants, which includes river goers of all ages, genders and sizes in dozens of canoes to scour for thrash that may have flowed downstream in Hungary's second largest river, Tisza. The one who collects the most trash each year wins!
Colleagues from our Regional Environmental, Science, Technology, and Health Hub (ESTH) were among the more than 200 participants of the 7th Plastic Cup competition (Pet Kupa), collecting tons of waste from the Tisza river over the past week. Well done! 👏👏👏 pic.twitter.com/LJzaVOgS9c— U.S. Embassy Budapest (@usembbudapest) August 11, 2019
Volunteers get out of their canoes and scale the steep banks of the river by entering dense vegetation and braving mosquito bites, thorns and nettles as they search for trash. Right from thousands of muddy plastic bottles and chunks of styrofoam to many other pieces of waste like glass – a metric ton of waste is removed each day of the competition from the waterbody and laid in a pile onto a flatbed trailer on the banks of river Tisza. Once the trash is collected, the volunteers stand in a live chain to easily dump it. Each year, volunteers collect about 154,000 pounds of trash. About 60% of what they collect is transported to recycling facilities for processing while the remaining is sent to landfills.
Since its start in 2013, participants in the annual Plastic Cup competition — which offers a prize for those who collect the most trash each year — have gathered more than 330 tons of waste from the Tisza and other Hungarian waters. https://t.co/BDr1TEN0vF— Denver7 News (@DenverChannel) August 8, 2023
Zsolt Tamas, the Plastic Cup’s competition director, told USA Today, "The effort aims not only to improve and preserve Hungary’s natural environment but to interrupt a growing global ecological crisis by preventing as much waste as possible from traveling farther downstream to the seas and oceans."
He further stated, “The biggest source of global waste pollution is rivers. The waste comes down the rivers, through the seas and into the ocean, where currents form it into big islands.” It is becoming more and more urgent to address the global plastics crisis as exposure to such pollution can carry grave risks, both for human health as well as the ecology.
A recent research by the 2023 United Nations Environment Programme states that tiny fragments of microplastics that are less than 5mm in length have been found in the deepest recesses of the ocean, in the pristine mountain glaciers, in breast milk, and in human bodies as well. Solving a problem like water pollution by plastics at the river level is always better than having it grow and enter our oceans since then the task becomes 100x more dangerous and difficult.
In the words of Tamas, "Prevention, solving it at the beginning of the pipeline is the best. If it doesn't get into the Tisza, then we have nothing to pull out," and we completely agree with that premise. Yet, as long as single-use plastic production remains high, such pollution is certain to persist.