The Plastic Cup is a non-profit, non-governmental initiative, was created to eliminate waste pollution of the Tisza in Hungary. This environmental action contributes to clean river Tisza by organizing events, waste collection campaigns spanning several months, team-building activities, exhibitions and professional discussions throughout the year.
The idea of forming this organization started with a conversation between Attila Dávid Molnár and Tibor Fekete. Tibor once told David that he was sailing on a raft made of PET bottles on the Tisza, which sparked the idea between the two of them. Since the establishment of the initiative, hundreds of volunteers have joined them.
Plastic Cup’s team shares a descripion about themselves on their website: “Everyone knows that a PET bottle floats brilliantly on the surface of the water. Far fewer know what a magnificent ship can be built by using them. We know because we were able to build our own ships. Not one, but an entire fleet. We sailed out to the water and traveled more than a hundred kilometers on the Tisza. We call ourselves Pet Pirates because we are in a fight. We declared war on the huge flood of PET bottles that floods the Tisza every year. During our journeys we collected a lot of drink bottles from the river, the floodplain, and the settlements along the river. Our boats and the garbage we collected were smashed at the end of our trips and placed in a selective waste yard, where they were reused.”
The activities of the organization are very diverse. Aside from PET Cup race and garbage collection, the Plastic Cup continuously examines heavily polluted areas through various researches in collaboration with directorates of water management. This will help us to get a more complex picture of the damage to natural resources and the hiding waste pollution of the protected floodplain forests.
Within the their project “Clean Water, Happy Tisza”, a longer section of the Tisza was assessed than ever before: by May 2020, 81% of the Hungarian section was covered by their volunteers and contaminated areas were recorded on a total of 902 kilometers on both banks of the river. These data can be tracked by a mobile application, Trash Out (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IoEnt0fj2_A&t=7s), developed for this purpose. In 2020-2021, the teams, volunteers and flag bearers of the Plastic Cup mapped the river and some of its tributaries from From the Spring to the Mouth.
The Plastic Cup also organizes annual roundtable discussions with experts from water protection, relevant authorities, waste management, nature conservation, national parks and the government to save the Tisza. Six roundtables have been organized since 2016 and their summary is available to anyone on their website.
One of their most recent actions, on January 7, 2022, bottles, containing GPS trackers, were released on the Tisza. The goal is to observe how far and how fast the bottles travel on the flooding rivers and also where, why, and for how long they get stuck. For example, in areas where bottles slow down or stop, the pollution level of floodplain is more severe than average. Plastic Cup’s mapping project of the river waste also complements the hydrological research at the Budapest University of Technology. Researchers at the university are trying to model how pollution spreads. The theoretical results are well comparable to the practical experience of the Plastic Cup with the movement of the GPS bottles. This will allow a better, more efficient tracking of the waste path and validation of modeling in the future.
The Plastic Cup Association is a truly inspiring example of a much-needed collaboration in the protection of the Tisza. The researches and findings of the team support serious problems that need to be addressed. On their website (https://petkupa.hu/eng/), a lots of information, videos, downloadable studies are available in English and you can support their work.