Fighting a plastic menace

Fighting a plastic menace

The accumulation of plastic is a growing threat throughout the region, choking floodplains and spoiling valuable grazing areas and recreation zones. With help from the Green Danube Partnership, one community is creating jobs and cleaning the river by tackling this plastic problem.

Credit: Iarochevitch, Rast (right)

The first rounds of waste collection by village children were organised in August: 900 kilograms of plastic waste (or approximately 20,000 bottles) was harvested on just one 4-kilometre section of the Tisza floodplain 10 km upstream from the Hungarian border.

In recent years, a new problem has been growing in the Upper Tisza basin in Ukraine and Romania: the pollution of rivers and floodplains with plastic waste. Empty plastic bottles mixed with other waste are dumped in mountain brooks or on river banks and are flushed during high flows. Further downstream river banks act like a filter and look like a plastic curtain after floods. Whole river cross-sections have been blocked by such floating waste causing complaints by downstream countries.

A new project initiated by Mykhola Bohla of the Drotyntsi community in Vinogradyvski raion/Zakrapatska oblast in Ukraine is working to collect plastic waste from the floodplain – and at the source from villagers – and process it for recycling.

With funds provided by the Green Danube Partnership, cooperation between the ICPDR, The Coca-Cola Company and Coca-Cola Hellenic, the project began in April 2010. The project has allowed for the restoration of a communal building and the purchase of a pressing machine suitable for plastic bottles and other waste.

Harvesting a plastic crop. The first rounds of waste collection by village children were organised in August: 900 kilograms of plastic waste (or approximately 20,000 bottles) was harvested on just one 4-kilometre section of the Tisza floodplain 10 km upstream the Hungarian border. After collection the plastic is pressed into 20-kilogram balls ready for transport to a recycling facility. Production of leaflets and an awareness-raising campaign began in the autumn.

The Drotyntsi project has involved the creation of jobs, with financial support from the regional employment centre. However, a key challenge is to ensure the economic viability of the whole project. Income generated from selling pre-processed recyclable waste must cover the running costs of the processing facility and the transport vehicle, as well as amortisation costs of the machinery. Economically, it will be necessary to cooperate with other collection or pre-processing facilities, such as that in Velyky Bychkiv, to bring the highest possible recyclable volume to market in order to achieve better prices.

The project will run until June 2011, and the next steps will focus on consolidating the processing and storage unit, inquiry of plastic recycling market for best price of products, establishment of collection bins in the village and development of a more extensive waste recycling concept to avoid pollution right at the source.

Georg Rast, WWF Germany, is project manager for Upper Tisza river
activities within the WWF Danube Carpathian Programme.

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