During a yearlong project in Hungary it was pretty clear to me that Hungarians do not have the best recycling system of all.
In the country you only have two bins in your home: recyclable and not recyclable. In the recyclable bin must be put everything that is possible and suitable for recycling, without any kind of division, except for glass. Clean paper, clean plastic, clean cans and clean packages have to be all trashed in the same bin and all the “rest” in the non-recyclable, except for the glass. This one has to be collected separately but that is not possible to throw away with ease in your own home. To supply this lack of division Hungary declares that all the division work will be done in a second moment and by hand from specialized employees, and that is also the motivation that bans the glass and dangerous trash to be throw away with all the rest. A decision that may seem a bit countersense when every single citizens could be informed and educated in the self-regulation of their own trash.
In Budapest especially the situation is a little bit different, because many waste-collection yards are spread all around the city and made the recycle more easy and efficient, there are in this way many division not only between paper, plastic, glass and so on but also between glass itself, which has to be divided between clear or colored. Even if the situation in the capital is better that in the rest of the country this is far from perfect, in a study of 2018 according to the EC Hungary was one of the 14 European countries that encountered more difficulties meeting their recycling goals and was at the very bottom of the list, together with Malta and Romania.
In a matter of plans for recycling goals the European Union wants all the state members to cut down their own waste up to 55% by 2030, to try and follow the according path Hungary is now proceeding with a plan of strict recycling regulations such as a ban of single-uses plastics by the end of 2021.
Although the general recycling levels have increased considerably in Hungary, the country struggles in two main sectors: plastic and e-waste. In terms of trash regulations Hungary has made considerable progress, in fact 35% of the total waste generated is actually recycled but the average Hungarian citizens uses around 80 plastic bags per year and most of them are still ending up in landfills, where they release toxic gas and microplastics. They are way under the average European rate of plastic recycling because if the medium European rates is at 42% Hungary is still around the 31%.
Another big problem, as said before, is the e-waste. In fact, many Hungarians treats old electronics as if any other kind of thrash and they throw it away in normal trash bins, which is incredibly dangerous for the planet and the health too. Not to mention all the great material which can be reutilized is totally wasted in this way, leading to more request for rare minerals to supply the needs. Not only this, but a lot of times old electronics can be literally found on the streets, where the old owners left them thinking that maybe someone else could find them and use them; according to a research conduct by media-markt up to 20% of Hungarians do not actually believe that e-waste recycling is a pressing matter.
Even with this statistic Hungary remains one of the most environmentally-aware states of its area, but luckily in the rest of Europe the situation looks quite different. In the last years Cyprus and Lithuania have doubled their plastic and recycling rates, while several countries in Western Europe and Scandinavia are close to being 100% waste free.