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The purchase of stored PET bottles and cans has been a reality in Slovakia for 10 months now. This step by the Ministry of the Environment appears to be one of the most effective tools for reducing the occurrence of plastic waste in nature. Half a year after the introduction of returnable bottles and cans, 440 million pieces of plastic packaging were handed over for recycling.

The non-governmental organization Save Nature by Čivas, which deals with waste cleaning sees fewer plastic bottles in nature, but there are still a lot of garbage heaps in forests and river basins. Evidence is also provided by the landfill near the village of Byšta, which, according to the dates on the packaging, is around 17 years old.

Is cleaning nature useless?

Waste clean-up in nature might seem like a useless process – one day nature is clean, and the next day or week a garbage dump can appear again in the same location. However, the invited representatives of organizations, institutions, and municipalities agreed during the round table discussion that it is necessary to carry out cleaning in nature. The reason is to prevent contamination of groundwater and soil, and also, among other things, the environment is more attractive for tourism.

Solutions for performing cleaning could be:

Who should do the cleanings? Suggestions were made that local marginalised communities should be involved in the cleanings to change their mindset and raise awareness about the waste. Volunteers can organize and be involved in the cleanings. But also the state should be involved in the removal of unidentifiable waste, but the identifiable waste must be removed by the waste generator.

The question arose, who is the “state”? The Ministry of the Environment of the Slovak Republic and its Environmental Fund or the Slovak Water Management Enterprise? The latter should be responsible for the illegally placed waste in the waterways but must receive funds for this activity. 

The clean-ups can be paid from the fines, but there are changes necessary. If the inhabitants of the municipalities do not separate their waste, the fee for the waste is higher, so this should force people to separate and to pay less for the waste. There are municipalities where marginalized communities do not pay fee for the waste and the municipalities act as a policeman – they take a driver’s license away from them.
Everyone agreed that it is necessary to carry out cleanups in nature. The reasons for cleaning the nature are to prevent the groundwater and soil from the contamination and to have more attractive environment for tourism.
diskusia o cisteni riek

Discussion in smaller groups

How to minimize the amount of waste?

In general: it is necessary to prevent waste generation, use circular economy, carry out “yard sales”, reduce consumption, each person should buy less things, support recycling projects more, make collection yards available outside the district / residence. Problem is unsettled land where illegal waste is exported (the owner is not aware of negative effects of waste on nature) and also the lack of qualification of the waste officers at the municipalities.

In nature: there is no functional waste management system, it is necessary to install technical solutions such as nets and walls for capturing waste in the water bodies. Insufficient numbers of people for environmental issues, insufficient capacity for processing green waste, lack of landfilling and processing of hazardous waste (asbestos) were identified. And what should be the motivations for cleanings? Repression? What kind? Cleaning in marginalized communities should be done by employment offices with the local unemployed.

Awareness raising

peter gallovič

Peter Gallovič presented the topic of Waste management in Slovakia

Raising the awareness of children at schools by separating the waste at schools and explaining (also to the public) that waste does not belong in nature but in the bin. The instructions for separation and the need to use waste as a raw material must be visible in every municipality – in kindergartens, schools, bus stations, on the buses, on the municipality’s website.

Social workers in Roma settlements should work personally and daily with Roma people and explain to them the situation with waste and the fact that waste does not belong in nature, as it is a big problem in many areas of the Eastern Slovakia.

The National Round Table is an event within the Tid(y)Up project, focused on waste, waste in nature and its minimization.

prednasky o odpade
Participants of the National Round Table

Title photo credits: Róbert Neméti

The Tid(y)Up project is an international environmental project led by the main partner from Hungary, where, in cooperation with other foreign partners, we try to reduce water pollution by plastics and in this way improve the water quality in the Tisa River (the Bodrog River is its tributary) and the lower section of the river Danube.

#dtptidyup #interregtidyup