Tuesday, 21 January 2014

The Lost Island: Seeking to Dispose of Recycling House Waste in Buda

Google street view: the lost recycling waste 'island' on  Miko u. January 2012
Some time before New Year the recyclable waste collection 'island' near our house in Budapest suddenly disappeared. Just before your imagination gets wild, an 'island' is the bureaucrats' slang for a bunch of containers of various colours where residents are supposed to drop their previously selected recyclable garbage. Something we had been doing systematically since we moved into the neighbourhood, and had sort of got accustomed to. And now, bang, it was gone. Vanished. Missing from its steady place on the corner of the Vermezo Park, in the Miko u. - Krisztina Korut intersection. From one week to the other, it simply wasn't there, and I felt stupid with, two bags full of plastic, glass, cans and paper, on my way to the train station, and without any place to leave them. Others before me, who had apparently been in the same ridiculous situation, had simply dropped their selected waste on the sidewalk, right in the place where the containers had been for years, forming an unaesthetic pile. What does one do? Well, I walked a few steps to the nearest public dustbin, and hanged the bags on it - someone should inevitably collect them, sooner or later.

I remembered writing my first message to the First District Council, enquiring about the location of this 'island' back in 2007, just after we had moved in our flat. They wrote me back  then, kindly and in English. So I tried the same, using the contact form of Budapest's Municipality:

Üzenet: Dear Budapest Municipality,
As a house-owner and resident of District I, on Attila ut 75, I noticed that the local separate waste collection 'island' on  Miko utca disappeared some 2 months ago. Where are we supposed to dispose of separated recyclable waste, which is piling up? My contact phone is <...>.
Promisingly, a confirmation arrived back almost immediately, informing me in English that my message had been registered and assigned a number. So all I needed to do was wait. It was December 20, 2013. Soon after we left Budapest for a lengthy Christmas and New Year trip. But I remembered about the lost 'island' on the first day after we returned home - I simply had no idea where to dispose of the selected recycling garbage. Trying to keep it at home sounded infeasible. So with no hesitation I dropped it in the general waste collection bins at the entrance of our house. Other neighbours seemed to have done the same and in the following days the bins suddenly started filling up much quicker than before.

On January 17 the expected reply arrived into my email box - in good English, signed by Domokosné dr. Burza Eszter, Head of Public Utilities and Environment unit at the Department for City Management in Budapest. Impressed, I read:

To inform you the waste collection island was pulled down by the Local Municipality of the 1st district’s request. In the 1st district you can be found other waste collection island places, which will be operate until September 2014, when the house hold collection of the separate waste (paper, metal and plastic) will be start in your local area.

1The list provided the following locations, quote to quote:
  •  Kosciuszkó Tádé utca, next to CBA department store; 
  • \between Krisztina krt. - Attila út; Lánchíd utca parking place - Öntőház utca;   
  • Sánc utca - Mihály utca; and  
  • Somlói út 51. supporting wall before.
Here is what I wrote back:

Thank you for your kind reply. I studied the offered alternative recyclable waste collection 'islands' and realised that the nearest location is about 15 minutes of walking distance (one way) from Attila ut 75, and even further away from nearby areas of the Buda Castle District. This is inadequate for the purpose of daily recyclable waste disposal, which amounts to about half of the overall amount of waste generated for a family of two parents and 3 children  in pre-school and early school age - such as ours. As a result we have been forced to interrupt a well established practise of selective waste collection, and began unfortunately disposing all of our waste in the general community waste collection bins of our house.

Other families in the neighbourhood appear to be in a similar situation, as disposing of recyclable waste in this neighbourhood has become intangible since the sudden removal of the Miko u. 'island.' This led to: obvious doubling of the amounts of garbage disposed daily; overfilling of the green collection vessels in the house; subsequent spillage of odour and waste that create unhygienic living environment; and epidemiological risks. A similar situation can be observed in neighbouring houses. No information or instruction of any kind has been provided to the affected households, which undermines people's confidence in Municipal services in principle.

I would therefore kindly request your action for:
- coordinating with the municipal service providers the urgent restoring of recycling  waste collection possibility for the Attila ut/Miko ut neighbourhood and the adjoining parts of the Buda Castle District; and
- promptly communicating with the affected community, instructing it how to best maintain recycling collection habits and dispose of the selectively collected waste.

This time I Cc-ed the exchange to the Waste Management Working Group (HuMuSz) - a renown NGO in Hungary, requesting their assistance. I also offered my help as an environmental communications expert to the municipality's team. This story is to be continued, I suppose.

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