When it comes to a bad habit, it’s really hard to turn it around, even though we are all aware of the harmfulness of it. For instance, this is what happen with plastic disposable products. In Hungary, an average person still consumes at least 80 plastic bags per year. In addition to it, Hungary is among the countries with the highest bottled water consumption, equal to 139 litres per capita in 2019. Before them, only Italy and Germany. Most of these are made out of plastic. In Hungary, residents use 180,000 PET bottles per hour, more than 1.5 billion a year in Hungary. But, if plastic is one the first cause of pollution on the earth, it depends also on the way we normally manage household wastes andon how much companies try to avoid the usage of this economic item.
Starting from an overview, it is clear that Hungary isn't among the countries with the highest rate of plastic recycling in the Eu. The actual standard met by most of the Eu countries is 42%, whereas Hungary only stands at 31%. This percentage didn’t grow this year, as only 35% of plastic is recycled. The data look even more surprising, especially if we compare it to the amount of the waste generated: "only" 315526 tonnes out of which less than one third is recycled (100902 tonnes). But how is it possible?
Speaking of the trash collection, there are some points that can be seen as weakness. First of all, the way in which people divide their own wastes. According to Fabók Bálint reportage in one of the waste selected centres of the city of Budapest, in 2019, it appeared that at least 40-50% of the materials wasted in the plastic bin weren’t recyclable. The same emerged for the the electronic devices which are still wasted in the general household trash.
Talking from the company's perspective, it might seem that the main problem is a huge lack of awareness about the risks of trash. This is confirmed by last wwf research on Hungary residents habits. As reported by it, 74% of locals want to avoid using disposable plastics but only 59% already do it. Moreover, 11% of respondents declares themselves as resigners. They believe we can no longer do anything to avoid an environmental disaster, 5% of the respondents think climate change is just a riot.
Actually, a part of the issue is due to the lack of trust of people in the current system of recycling. In Hungary the removal of waste is a state monopoly, in Budapest it is carried out by FKF, as in other settlements by the local public service provider. In Debrecen, for instance, the main company is Aksd. The way in which trash is collected changes depending on the area the people live. In some zones, big dumpsters are provided outside in the streets to separate all the recyclable goods, such as paper, plastic and glass. In others there is a service door to door. By the way, that system doesn’t look to work properly, as many of the residents in Hungary still waste a lot of material in the wrong bin.
In the city of Debrecen, which is also the second biggest one in Hungary, a part of the local community justify this saying that the company isn’t going to recycle the goods anyway so they don’t make the effort to separate their own wastes. In some areas, the door to door system allows to waste paper and plastic together with the promise to select it later in the specific selection centre. For this reason, a lot of people that could actually waste their trash separately outside, also don’t do it.
Besides the statistics and people wrong behaviour, there are some aspects that can be seen as highlights. In fact, some of the entreprises are really making an effort to reduce the amount of plastic available to the consumer. For instance, when I first arrived in Hungary, I couldn't help but notice that in some supermarket chains it is impossible to find plastic items, like plates or glasses. Aldi, which is a german multinational and one of the most popular low cost supermarket chains in Hungary, has banned all disposable products, like plates, glasses and so on. Moreover, it has removed plastic gloves in the produce section (fruit and vegetables aisle). At the same time it allow people to weigh fruits and vegetable without any plastic bag.
The same happens in Interspar, which makes available paper tissues, instead of plastic gloves. Last but not least, Tesco, another important chain has agreed to remove one billion pieces of plastic from products by the end of 2020 as it seeks to reduce its environmental impact and meet consumer demand for less waste.
Yet, this is not enough to protect the planet. As it was already pointed out, if we really want a change, that also depends from our personal action. Especially, as european volunteers, we should try to keep in mind all the good habits to preseve the planet, as the resources we have aren't limitless.