The sixth PLASTIC Cup broke every record

This large clean-up of Tisza river will stay with us for a while though

The sixth PLASTIC Cup last week attracted record breaking number of participants at the Upper Tisza river, Hungary. The traditional clean-up event was organized between Szatmárcseke and Tiszamogyorós this year, and unfortunately it broke all previous records. On the clean-up action with a 74 kilometre track, enthusiastic volunteers and registered teams collected 10 tonnes of waste, and at the end, the Cup went far away from Tisza.

Large expectations preceded the sixth PLASTIC Cup, as already the start of registration indicated record number of participants. The boat fleet of municipal, corporate, friends and civil teams with a total of 21 plastic boats made of waste, crew of 400 and 50 canoes cleaned the protected floodplain forests of the Tisza for a week. Nearly 40 volunteers were responsible for sorting and preparing for recycling of the record amount of 10 tonnes of collected waste.

Everything started with the Transcarpathian pre-race. The volunteers of the PLASTIC Cup, the Youth Organization of the Transcarpathian Hungarian Cultural Association (KMKSZ ISZ) and the Papilio Nature and Environment Association have fulfilled the old dreams of the organizers to have canoe tour and program in Transcarpathia, too, associated to the PLASTIC Cup. Visit to the source of the Black Tisza is a special experience, and in the historical memorial place the participants could even taste the crystal-clear spring. The confluence of the Black- and White Tisza at settlement of Raho is also a cult place, but here you can already see the waste pollution. After boarding the canoes at settlement of Huszt, the canoe tour on the still unregulated and fast stream went on until Szatmárcseke, where the participants joined the Plastic Pirates already building the boats.

The Transcarpathian pre-race became reality with the support of Bethlen Gábor Foundation and the office of the ministerial commissioner for the development of Transcarpathia and kindergarten development program in the Carpathian basin.

Our team at the source of Black Tisza

20 teams. Countless bottles. Forest of tents. Sand bank and dry ice. Everything was given to a good trash derby. During the 2-day shipbuilding process, the spirit was becoming more and more intense as the boats started to getting into shape. Someone opts for a solar panel powered drive, while other fixes a huge boat steering wheel, someone rigs sails, others believe in recycled pallets. It will turn out only a week later who was right when the young but rigorous bankers of the Cup aggregate the PETáks (official currency of the Cup that you can earn in a variety of activities) acquired during the race. The main purpose of the event is to clean up the Tisza, but collecting waste is not the sole option to get PETáks. Anyone who wants to compete needs to know the Tisza, s/he has to win a few tricky races, and worth to attract the jury of children in the PET-a-Star show.

Still, everybody is best interested in the PLASTIC mines, thus looking at the treasure map and the app with located hot spots. However, the expected "harvest" is far behind...the news has already started to spread that there is lesser waste, when on the island of Jánd everything went back to normal. Only the previous floods had moved the dumps, but here, at the first geographic barrier, at the tip of the small island, a lot of plastic and glass bottles had piled up. After the estuaries of Szamos and Kraszna rivers, the amount of waste hidden in the woods and high shores grows by orders of magnitude. Canoes parked on shore, people shouting for more bags, fully loaded boats… but there are still uncleaned fields left behind, even though a mothership with 2 tonnes of loading capacity also helped the collection.

The mothership, M.V. PETényi floating on plastic bottles

Rich, coastal vegetation, low water level, sultry heat, and the day by day moving of the camp challenged even the most experienced pirates. This could only be done in teamwork and cooperation. Participants are therefore accompanied by experts of water rescue, police and water authorities.

Nearly half of the 10 tonnes of waste collected is suitable for reuse, so determined volunteers sorted and compressed everything from bag to bag. This way the hopeless materials got back into the loop, creating a new chance for onshore use again. This year, an industrial baling machine provided by the Water Directorate of Upper Tisza was a great help, which accelerated the work and made the transport of waste more economical. The organizers of the Cup have been constantly looking for innovative recycling companies, and this year they met the Dutch "Waste Free Oceans" project specialized in the recycling of marine and river waste. Thanks to this, collected bottles from Tisza may even end up as office furniture. Moreover, volunteers and staff of Greenpeace also carried out a separate "brand inspection", brand audit of the plastic wastes collected on that day, of which results can be seen here (in Hungarian).

Among the teams, one could find the boats of National Coordination of Waste Management and Asset Management Plc., WWF Hungary complemented by Ukrainian fellows, Greenpeace, Henkel, Siemens, Aztakeservit from Dunaföldvár, the Municipality of Cigánd and FŐTÁV, the district heating company of Budapest.

Final results

The fierce competition was finally won by the crew of JoinTisza, that, thanks to the support of the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, included experts from 7 countries of 4 continents (India, Morocco, United States of America, United Kingdom, Serbia, Italy and Norway) complemented by Hungarian colleagues. Those experts from the fields of water and waste management, as well as marketing arrived to the Upper Tisza to help the cooperation with their expertise. TheJOINTISZA project aims to update the Tisza River Basin Management Plan and support the implementation of the objectives of the Danube Region Strategy by involving professional organizations of all the five countries of the Tisza basin under the leadership of the General Directorate of Water Management, Hungary.

Second place went to the boat of Tilos (Forbidden) Radio that won the Cup last year though with slightly different team.

Third place went to the team of Obi van Kenubi and Papilio, so for the first time in the history of PLASTIC Cups a Transcarpathian team also stood on the podium.

What is even more pleasure is that the hero of the Tisza special prize was also awarded to the Transcarpathian team of the Youth Organization of the Transcarpathian Hungarian Cultural Association (KMKSZ ISZ). They earned this prize by collecting the most waste per team member, and rewarded by the plastic bottle presses from the Hungarian Mineral Water, Juice and Soft Drinking Association.

Cup of researches

There is no Cup without scientific content. This year, it was the water testing by the water monitoring device of the WaterScope International Zrt. which analyses water samples holographically, and sends daily reports to the laboratory on the Internet. The innovative instrument used in fish farms and water utilities will give an accurate and credible picture of the water quality of Tisza in early August. Details in background material.

Another interesting research was the project for mapping and exploration of the microscopic communities living on the surface of plastic in Hungarian water bodies. This microbial diversity research is carried out in close cooperation between the Institute of Aquaculture and Environmental Protection of St. Stephen University and Wessling Hungary Ltd. Detailed results are expected in October.

Life is not going to stop after the end of the Cup either, because the growing, expanding and diverse PLASTIC Cup initiative is already present in Transcarpathia, and beyond the pre-race competition, environmental competition has been launched for high school students. While experts are preparing for the Tisza Round Table on 18-19 October 2018 focusing on the practical implementation of the Ukrainian Waste Strategy. Additionally, this year, they will be present at the Waste Management Exhibition in Kiev with an environmental stand, all under the auspices of the Clean Transcarpathia program, in close cooperation with Transcarpathian organizations.

Main supporter of the PLASTIC Cup is the Hungarian Ministry of Innovation and Technology. Thanks to this support the high-quality water safety, the catering of volunteers and teams, the continuous communication and film making, the development of the trash eating trash boat, alias PETényi, the preliminary waste monitoring and survey, and the wastefree approach of the Cup became possible.

The Plastic Cup organized by the Society, Hungarian Association of Environmental Enterprises (HAEE) and Sonar Diver Team was supported in 2018 by the Hungarian Ministry of Innovation and Technology, Hungarian Mineral Water, Juice and Soft Drinking Association, Bethlen Gábor Foundation, IT Services Hungary Ltd., Henkel Magyarország Ltd. and the JOINTISZA Project.

Our scientific partners are National Coordination of Waste Management and Asset Management Plc., General Directorate of Water Management and Hungarian Association of Environmental Enterprises.

Further contributors and supporter: Upper Tisza Directorate of Water Management, Municipality of Vásárosnamény, Green Circle – Friends of the Earth’s member, WWF Hungary, Greenpeace, Wessling Hungary Ltd., Waterscope International Plc., Holofon Plc., Siemens, FŐTÁV Plc., North-Greatplain Environmental Management Ltd., K3&S Ltd., Tisza Ortofém Ltd., Folprint Zöldnyomda Ltd., Prezi

We would like to say special thank you this way to the Upper Tisza Directorate of Water Management, Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg County Police Office, the North-Greatplain Environmental Management Ltd. and the Sonar Diver Team.

Photos: Miklós Konyha and
József Bankó / Paradignow Images, 2018.

Further information: Gergely (Gary) Hankó
press officer
PET Kupa
Phone.: +36 20 383 6242


Final results of the PLASTIC Cup 2018:

  1. JoinTisza
  2. Tilos
  3. Obi-Wan Kenubi - Papilio
  4. KMKSZ ISZ - Tisza Hősei különdíj
  5. Szivárványharcos (Greenpeace)
  6. Siemens Evező-SÖK
  7. Aztakeservit
  8. Főtáv Öko PET
  9. Csipetke
  10. PETúnia
  11. Zsákolók - Pumi 2
  12. FesztPET
  13. BudaPETenlakom
  14. Prezi
  15. Csakegymakett
  16. Panda (WWF)
  17. Tiszta Tisza
  18. Tisza 2
  19. Meglepetés 4
  20. Henkel

Summary of measurements by the WaterScope online, continuous water monitoring device provided by WaterScope International Plc.

Conditions and dates of measurements: During the PLASTIC Cup, between 4-11 August after the daily canoeing and waste collection and the current daily campsite.

During the event, a total of 9, 1-hour long measurements were performed at various water sampling points and ways: at Tivadar, upstream of Szamos estuary, downstream of Szamos estuary, Szamos at estuary, at Tiszamogyorós, and from accumulated foam and sludge.

Comparison of these sites and sample types will be one aspect of a detailed analysis later. The equipment is equipped with approx. The device found approximately 12 000 objects on the 5 000 recorded holograms. By analysing them, we can gain detailed information about the microbiological status of the Tisza. Detailed results are expected in September. The device took the following pictures from the most commonly found algae species:


The crew of the PLASTIC Cup collecting 10 tonnes of waste last summer did not stand idle in winter and eliminated the largest PLASTIC mine ever found in cooperation with the General Directorate of Water Management. In 4 days, 4 hectares of Natura 2000 protected forest was cleaned by collecting of 1 200 bags of garbage. Half of it (60 m3) was reusable waste that was taken over by the waste processing and recycling companies.

In parallel with forest clean-up, the experts of the PLASTIC Cup monitored again the 70 kilometres-long section of the Upper Tisza, due to the experienced constant pollution by plastic of this section. The online map, has been updated between Szatmárcseke and Tiszamogyorós, to help the Pirates finding the PLASTIC mines during the PLASTIC Cup.


On the occasion of the World Water Day, on 20th of March, 2018 a festive premier showing was organized on the A38 boat in Budapest to present a 52-minute, environmental documentary film titled “PLASTIC CUP - official story of the Plastic Pirates". The successful, packed house show was attended by former participants and supporters of PLASTIC Cup as well as representatives of environmental policy.

Quote from the movie's Synopsis: "Five years ago, some wobbly boats made of plastic bottles appeared on the Upper Tisza. On one deck, a movie crew wiggled, the other carried a family with three children and one dog, and the third one held a companion of friends. No doubt, it was an unusual way of raising attention, that our second largest river was threatened by plastic pollution coming from beyond the borders. The 'Water carries something' reached the thousands of viewers and has played a vital role in making the initiative an international movement now called PLASTIC Cup of river Tisza ... " Trailer:

For details on the full movie showing and distribution please contact PLASTIC Cup.


In the summer of 2017, at the request of the PLASTIC Cup, Wessling Hungary Ltd. first measured microplastic content in natural water in Hungary. In the framework of a project, started this year, the tributaries of the Danube were also examined. Not surprisingly, microplastic has been also found here.

On the conference “Microplastics in the loop” organized by the Hungarian Association of Environmental Enterprises (HAEE) experts presented the problematics of plastic materials that are less than 5 mm polluting our waters and soils, as well as threatening organisms too in the food chain. The technical summary of the conference can be found here in detail (in Hungarian). The conference was accompanied by an international workshop too.


Ministry for Innovation and Technology