Preventing water crises
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Preventing water crises

The Danube is full of microplastics

Microplastics polluting natural bodies of water – which are present in increasing quantities around the world – present a major environmental, food safety and health hazard. Among the rivers in Hungary that have been tested so far, the most were found in the Danube: 50 particles per cubic metre.

WESSLING Hungary Ltd. began the Tiny Plastic Mystery project in spring 2018, in order to determine the level of microplastic pollution in the Danube and its tributaries. Earlier samples have already shown that, similar to other European locations, microplastic pollution can be assumed to be present in the surface waters of Hungary, too.

Along the River Tisza, at Dombrád, WESSLING’s measurements showed that the number of plastic pieces over 300 µm in size was 4.9 per cubic metre of water, while the sample from the Tisza Lake had 23.1 particles/m3. Most of the pieces of plastic found were made of the widely used varieties polyethylene, polypropylene and polystyrene.

50 particles in 1 m3 of water – that sums up the results of the two measurements taken in the Danube, which is quite shocking because it is by far the highest value obtained in any measurement so far in Hungary.

With the assistance of the Central Danube Valley Water Management Directorate, the experts detected 45 particles of plastic in 1 m3 of water on average north of Megyeri Bridge, while the count came to 55 particles at the southern sampling location, by the Csepel Free Port. This may be related to the high population density of cities: the waste washed in by precipitation and wastewater treatment plants may also be significant sources of microplastics.

As regards to the material of the tiny plastic particles detected in the Danube, similar to earlier measurements in Hungary, the majority of the particles were made of the polyethylene, polypropylene and polystyrene used in consumer items and packaging.

The picturesque Danube Bend at Visegrád Photo: Shutterstock

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.

So recycling is expensive? What about the waste dumped in the oceans?

The plastic polluting the oceans costs mankind 2.5 trillion dollars a year. The authors of a study published in the Marine Pollution Bulletin warned that previously, specialists had seriously underestimated the value of the social and economic damage caused by plastic waste.

Millions of children die each year due to lack of access to clean water

According to a UN report, a child died every five seconds somewhere in the world in 2017, but most of those deaths could have been prevented, as they were mostly caused by lack of clean water, hygiene, nutrition and basic healthcare services.

Polluted water is responsible for the tragedy of coral reefs

The disheartening condition of our wonderful coral reefs is one of the most painful examples of the shocking and perhaps irreversible environmental processes currently under way around us. According to an Australian study, the destruction of coral is caused by polluted river water, which inhibits their capacity to regenerate.