New GPS bottles allow us to follow the journey of waste on map

A new chapter of mapping the waste situation of our rivers has arrived. As a part of the research and development programme of Tisza Plastic Cup, researchers have released three bottles with GPS trackers, that forward real time data with showing on map their locations. With this experiment, experts are anxious to determine how far and how fast the large amount of waste delivered by rivers can move, whether they get stuck in floodplains, if they start moving again, and whether they can eventually reach the seas. This is the first known experiment where anyone can follow the journeys of plastic bottles on the Plastic Cup map. The first bottle has already been released into the river Bodrog, the remaining two will be released in the coming days, depending on the flood waves and water levels. The professionals of Plastic Cup, who will release the bottles at Olaszliszka, will stream the action on Facebook as well.

A great concern with plastic bottles is that they arrive with the floods and are deposited in the floodplain forests. Actions of Plastic Cup have collected 160 tonnes of trash in the last eight years, cleaned many protected areas completely, and because of their tireless efforts, more and more forests are clean and preserved. One of the biggest factors of their successful clean-up operation is mapping: the more they know about the method of pollution, the better can be their river saving actions.

PET II, the trash-picking ship of Plastic Cup is on duty for days on the flooding Bodrog. Experts have recently released bottles containing GPS trackers from the board of the ship.

The classic “message in a bottle” model – handwritten letters floating in a glass bottle – showed us that an object can move hundreds of kilometers within a year. In the spring of 2019, the volunteers of Plastic Cup let go a classic bottle message – symbolically in a half liter Ukrainian vodka bottle – with a message that was found the same year at the Kisköre hydropower dam. Today it is already known that this water facility protects the lower parts of the river from a vast amount of trash.

The new GPS bottles were developed by Waterscope Inc, innovators in domestic water-management, and collaborators of Plastic Cup for many years in water quality assessment and knowledge sharing. With current technology, the GPS tracker in the bottle signals every 15 minutes and defines the geographical coordinates. If the dislocation is more than 200 meters, the new position of the bottle will appear on the tracking map. The goal of Plastic Cup’s research is to prove once and for all: the pollution of seas and oceans is a serious environmental protection case; one that should be a common responsibility, and one that affects the landlocked nations as much as the coastal ones. Our hypothesis is that some of the bottles travel all the way from inland sources to the estuaries and so forth to the oceans.

The GPS bottles can be followed in real time

Perhaps the greatest result of the current development is that anyone can use the public map to see where the bottles are. With this, we can present another exciting result for our volunteers, supporters, and for the enthusiastic members of public. Analyzing and using the data helps to get rid of pollution in the long term”

– said Miklós Gyalai-Korpos, project leader of the research programme.

The first step in stopping the pollution is to know its route. In the picture, a fridge floats on river Bodrog.

The Coca-Cola Foundation founder of the Zero Waste Tisza project secures the financial background for the technical development, testing and tracking of the GPS bottles.

River savers in action – Proper sorting is always a part of the rescuer job.

Despite the cold weather, the professionals and volunteers of Plastic Cup have been working hard on the deck of PETII ship. They are not just releasing GPS bottles, but continuously removing waste from the river, and ensuring that previously cleaned parts are not contaminated again. This ship has foldable arms, and a tilting basket to collect the floating trash. North-Hungarian Water Directorate, Municipality of Olaszliszka, SONAR Upper Tisza Diving and Rescue Association, team of DECK.hu and local ferrymen and water policemen are also providing help to make this project successful.

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