Wetenschap - 21 maart 2002

EU candidate Hungary faces waste problems

EU candidate Hungary faces waste problems

Waste management in Hungary lags far behind the standards of other West European countries. Hazardous substances leak from illegal dumping sites and there is not much experience with recycling of waste, says Environmental Sciences student Szilvia Gond?r.

The volume of household waste is growing fast in Hungary, putting pressure on already inadequate landfill sites. Gond?r: "What worries me the most is that there are about 3200 settlements in Hungary and almost as many landfill sites, most of which do not meet the requirements of safe operation and are illegal." Human health is at risk as many landfills are polluting drinking water.

Hungary wants to do something about the situation not only for the sake of its inhabitants, says Gond?r. "Hungary is struggling to meet the demands of the European Union and the government wants to make joining the EU part of its election campaign. On the other hand there are still large gaps in Hungarian legislation which need to be filled."

Apart from upgrading the landfills to limit environmental pollution, Gond?r believes that recycling and composting of organic waste should be developed in Hungary. "There are a few good examples, like the cities of P?cs or Gy?r, where selective collection is working. The key issues here are the placing of selective collection containers and training people. Good results can be achieved, if there are certain incentives. The Hungarian people are no worse than any other citizens of the EU, just it takes some time to make them understand why separate collection is good and what the financial benefits can be for them."

Gond?r calculated for one town that with the proper techniques for recycling and composting, up to 68 percent of the municipal solid waste could be diverted from the environmentally risky landfills. "But the waste collection fee charged to households is not enough to cover the new investments and developments. Therefore municipalities and individual waste treatment companies should look for other sources, such as government subsidies and EU funds to finance these changes. There are a lot of promising new ideas, but solving the problems of several decades will not happen from one day to the other. I am hopeful, especially now that I am working at a consultancy firm in environmental management, with industrial plants and managers. I have more insight and see that there are a number of enthusiastic and bright people in this field with very promising new ideas and results and together we will try to make our environment better."

Hugo Bouter