At least 80 plastic bags per year, 180000 pet bottles per hour, 1.5 Billion per year - these are just some of the data concerning Hungary not enviromental friendly habits in 2018. However the biggest problem doesn’t come from the amount of trash collected but from the way this is recycled. According to the Oecd, in 2018, only 31% of plastic was recycled, whereas the amount in Europe is 42%. But how is that possible? And what has been done so far in order to improve the percentage of materials recycled?
Tokay, Eğer, Hortobágy National Park: those are just some of the city, villages, where usually tourists can be in contact of the nature. Hungary is, in fact, a land characterized by lakes, rivers and national parks which make it interesting for people seeking a bit of peace outside from big cities. However, in Hungary, as in most of the world, there is still a huge lack of attention to the environment.
For instance, just this December 2020, 500 cubic meters of wastes were accumulated by the nature conservation guards in the area of the Hortobagy National Park, which is also in danger because of the deforestation. Almost half of the cubic meters of wastes collected can be recycled. Always in Hortobàgy, the tap water is still considered not drinkable. But this is not the only city which still struggle to acceed to the tap water as source for drinking. In other different areas of Hungary, it is suggested to not drink water from the tap, because of the high percentage of arsenic. This probably explains why there is still a large consume of bottles water.
However the real problem isn’t the amount of waste generated but how those are recycled. Talking about data, the amount of wastes generated by Hungary in 2017 was "only" 315526 (out of which 100902 tonnes were recycled). The previous year wasn’t better. As only 97164 out of 308994 were recycled.
In terms of percentage, this correspond to the 32% of the total, which brings Hungary as one of the worst countries in the recycling field after (24%, 2016 data), Estonia, France and Finland (each 27%), Ireland (31%). One of the main reason for this sad record can probably be referred to the way in which wastes are collected, which demotivate Hungarian residents from separating the different goods.
As far as we know, 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 especially in the countryside and small villages, trash is collected only once a week, which probably explains why people do not lose time to separate the trash.
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.
This though 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.
Besides the statistics and people wrong behaviour, there are some aspects that can be seen as highlights. In fact, some of the enterprises 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 allows people to weigh fruits and vegetable choosing a reutilizable bag, instead of a plastic bag. The same happens in Interspar, which makes available paper tissues, instead of plastic gloves. Meanwhile, 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.
Last but not least, coffee places usually reduce the amount of plastic, avoiding to give plastic sugar bags. Instead, each customer can ask to pour sugar in the drinks to the waiter/resse.
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 do the best out of our possibilities in order to protect the planet, as the resources we have aren't limitless.