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Preventing water crises
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Preventing water crises

1 cigarette butt – 1000 litres of polluted water

Most of the complaints one hears about smoking concern its health hazards, while there is much less said about the damage that is still done after the cigarette is extinguished. Yet the cotton buds and straws targeted by those aiming to combat plastic pollution come a poor second in terms of polluting the seas – cigarette butts are clearly the winner.

It is certainly true that most of the materials in cigarettes are natural ones. Yet the filter, that is to say the butt, also contains plastic, a total of some 4000 compounds, with the result that a single discarded cigarette butt can pollute as much as 1000 litres of water.

If we add that 5.5 trillion cigarettes are manufactured each year, it is easy to conclude that cigarettes are a tremendous source of pollution. Luckily, many people have recognised the risk that the stubs pose. A number of NGOs are working to raise awareness of the problem, and there is a bill before the European Parliament that would oblige manufacturers to make provisions for the appropriate treatment of their products.

The world’s tobacco factories produce 5.5 trillion cigarettes every year – and a large proportion of their stubs end up polluting our natural waters Photo: Shutterstock

Hungarian water treatment plant in Vietnam

It was announced in 2010 that the Vietnamese government would like to build a water treatment plant in Central Vietnam. Hungary is famous for its water treatment technology so they decided on a Hungarian partner.

The Biopolus BioMakery in the Netherlands

The Trappist monks of Koningshoeven Abbey have been brewing beer since 1881, and in recent years, they have also been baking bread and making chocolate, honey and cheese. The water to be treated is the wastewater from these brewing and manufacturing activities, together with the municipal wastewater from the Abbey and the visiting centre.

Over two tonnes of golf balls collected from Monterey Bay

Specialists believe almost 30 kilograms of microplastics has eroded from such a quantity of golf balls into the water.

Algal blooms grow more severe in the great lakes of the world

Over the last three decades, summer algal blooms in all large fresh-water lakes around the world have grown more severe – this is the conclusion of a global study, the longest ever of its kind, conducted by researchers from the Carnegie Institution for Science and NASA. 

The Pacific cleanup may succeed

The system created by a Dutch inventor called System 101, whose first trial run, conducted a year ago, had failed, has started collecting plastic waste on the Pacific again.

Hungarian innovation to filter pharmaceutical residues

Many studies worldwide have shown that the active compounds of medications are released into the environment with wastewater and can easily be reintroduced into the human food chain from there. Filtering these residues out is an increasingly acute concern, but, thankfully, the world of science has already responded to the problem.

Garbage from Asia has inundated an island in the middle of the Atlantic

Researchers from Canada and Africa have found a massive amount of plastic bottles, originating form Asia, mainly from China, on Inaccessible Island, located in the South Atlantic Ocean. The bottles were probably discarded into the water and then washed up on the island from cargo ships passing the region.

Pharmaceutical residues in Hungarian waters

In Hungary, too, the active ingredients of various medications are discharged continuously into the environment with wastewater, so they can now be detected in surface and underground waters as well as in soils.

What can we do against pharmaceutical residues in our waters?

After being introduced into human and animal organisms, some pharmaceutical compounds are secreted via urine unchanged, and then, through wastewater, those compounds may reach surface waters that serve as drinking water supplies, representing a risk for both aquatic ecosystems and for the purity of drinking water.

Microplastics from an unexpected source

We’ve known for a long time that plastic food packaging, wearing car tyres and clothing made of synthetic fibres are all sources of microplastic pollution. However, a new study has identified a new source of pollution in our kitchens, or more precisely in our teacups.

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