Although plastic has many advantages, it has become a serious environmental hazard and has been recognized as global problem. Especially plastic waste in marine ecosystems has become a great environmental problem on regional and global levels. Rivers are recognized as main vectors of pollution although sources and pathways of plastic in the rivers and its environmental impacts remain unclear.
The project “PlasticFreeDanube” focuses on macro plastic waste (> 5 mm) in and along the Danube river and parts of its riparian area. The overall aim of the project is to establish a scientifically sound knowledge base as well as a methodological approach on plastic waste in and along the river in terms of entrance points, quantities, transport patterns, and environmental threats.
In a joint action of the PlasticFreeDanube and the DANUBEparksCONNECTED projects at the end of October, a boat tour was conducted from Hainburg (AT) to Bratislava (SK). On the way, stops were made along the banks of the Danube in order to collect waste, which is subsequently sorted and analyzed by the Waste Management Institute of the University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences, Vienna. The action was actively supported by the Slovak nature conservation organization BROZ and also volunteers from the Austrian Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna took part, who currently want to draw attention to species extinction with a ongoing art project. The cross-border event in the Donau-Auen National Park was part of the 3rd danube-wide volunteer day, which took place in 14 protected areas in 8 Danube countries. DANUBEparksCONNECTED is an association of protected areas along the Danube to preserve this river as a habitat corridor.
One of the outputs of the project should be an action plan with recommendations for the management of the plastic waste. To not forget the insider knowledge of the experts from the field, on 28th of August an Expert Stakeholder Workshop took place in the viadonau headquarters in Tech Gate. About 30 participants divided into working groups exchanged their opinions to topics as the phenomenon of „littering“ and the appropriate prevention measures, waste management & infrastructure as well as changes in production & design. The results of the well-attended workshop will be incorporated in the action plan.
Video of the workshop.
Within the project we should develop teaching materials for teachers and information materials for national park rangers. To not miss out the requirements of the target groups, on the 20th of August we organized a workshop in the viadonau-Servicecenter Wachau. The participanting teachers and national park rangers formulated and presented their visions for the content of practical educational materials. In the end we went on a short exkursion to the river reconnection Rührsdorf-Rossatz where the participants learned more about the LIFE project Riparian Forest Wilderness Wachau.
Within the one-week Junior Ranger Camp in the National Park Donau-Auen we arranged one day with 10 to 20 years old kids, youngsters and young adults. In the morning the participants of the camp collected trash at the river banks in Petronell-Carnuntum and in the afternoon they sorted, weighted and professionally analyzed the collected waste in the camp in Eckartsau. A special highlight of the day was the visit of the Minister of Sustainability, Maria Patek, during the waste collection in the morning – the topic plastic waste in rivers cannot get enough attention!
PlasticFreeDanube was the slogan of our workshop at the childrens‘ university in Linz on the Danube and at BOKU in Vienna. It is hard to imagine our lives without any plastics. But if they end up as trash in nature they can become a serious problem for the environment. Young scientists investigated which plastics can be found in the Danube, where they come from and what risks they represent. While on the 10th of July 9-12 years old kids collected trash at the Danube river bank in Linz and sorted it at the viadonau ship „Negrelli“, on the next day young participants at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna investigated the floating and sinking of plastics according to its density. In the end a discussion took place about the different possibilities how to prevent plastic waste.
To develop effective solutions, PlasticFreeDanube needs to get an overview of input sources, types and amounts of plastic waste. How much plastic can e.g. pass the inlet structure of a hydropower plant on Danube? To get to the bottom of it project partner IWA from the BOKU did measurements below the power plant Freudenau with support of viadonau and together with the Institute of Waste Management (ABF-BOKU, Leadpartner) For that, a special measurement device was used – a bed load sampler specificically adapted for macroplastic with trapping nets.
“Get active for a safer Danube” was the motto of the Danube Day in Vienna City Park this year. Over 1.000 children plunged into search for traces about water, the Danube and nature.
In the viadonau tent they could learn more about stuff that actually does not belong into water –how a plastic bottle ends up in a river, how the plastic gets into the Black Sea, how long does it take to decompose and what every single person can do to reduce the plastic pollution in the Danube. At the same time people could learn about the project PlasticFreeDanube. Kids in the viadonau tent also had the opportunity to playfully „take out plastic from the Danube“. The young detectives could prove their skills on a small special bowling alley – and sometimes even all six fell! A total highlight that no kid wanted to miss.
The Danube connects many countries and many interests. DANUBEparksCONNECTED (URL: http://www.interreg-danube.eu/approved-projects/danubeparksconnected), one cooperation partner of PlasticFreeDanube, organized a cycling tour along the whole Danube with the aim to visit various protected areas on the river and to encourage cooperation. On the 25th of April experts from 11 EU-funded projects joined the cycling part from the Danube Island in Vienna to the National Park Centre in Schloss ORTH, presented their projects and discussed possible ways of cooperation. PlasticFreeDanube was a part of it and made cross-border contacts to other projects and initaitives which all follow the same goal: a clean and ecologically valuable Danube!
The third Consortium Meeting took place on the 3rd of April at the slovak project partner PISAS in Bratislava. In the morning the project partners presented the current status of each work package, the success and challenges of individual activities and after that further activities were planned. After the lunch, some of the strategic partners joined the meeting, e.g. Federal Ministry for Sustainability and Tourism and Environmental Associations of Lower Austria. Topics of discussion were the progres of the project and future cooperation possibilities followed by a valuable feedback on different project aspects.
The hungarian initiative Plastic Cup found a great way how to turn trash collecting into an adventure. Plastic Cup was founded as a response to the plastic pollution waves on the river Tisza. Volunteers regularly collect waste from the river and after selection of proper materials they build a boat which is made mostly from recycled plastic bottles and propelled by renewable energy. The most exciting part is then a river race between the PET boats manned by people who previously participated in the trash collection. Until now they have removed 18 tons of pollutants from the river and have built 47 boats out of plastic bottles.
Link to homepage: petkupa.hu/eng/bottles-up.html
The 8th Children’s Energy and Environment Week took place from 13-14 November 2018 in Vienna. The team of PlasticFreeDanube participated in the event and organised an interactive workshop with the children aged 9 to 12 to answer the following questions: Where’s the origin of the plastic waste? Which types of plastic waste can be found in the Danube and what can be done to avoid it? The kids learned about steps every single person can take to reduce the piles of plastic waste.
The second consortium meeting was hosted by viadonau in Vienna. The project partners discussed the current status of the activities and decided on the individual next steps in each work package. Furthermore, representatives of the management of each project partner met in the framework of the first Management Board Meeting to approve the Annual Progress Reports on Work Package Level.
Plastic waste in our rivers and lakes gets more and more attention from the public. That’s why a film crew of Puls4 accompanied us to a collection activity in the Donau-Auen National Park on October 5, 2018. The video contribution for „Café Puls“ can be viewed here: https://www.puls4.com/cafepuls/Videos/beitraege/Plastikmuell-Donau-ein-Strom-aus-Plastik.
The analysis of parts of the collected quantities of previous collection activities in the time between September 2017 to June 2018 shows that a large proportion of the plastic waste found, consists of PET bottles and other packaging material (about 30-55%). Furthermore, foamed plastics (such as polystyrene), as well as household waste and waste from sports and leisure activities, account for a big share.
Also in April, May and June 2018 collection activities took place in the study area between Freudenau and Gabčíkovo. For example, on 14th of April, about 30 volunteers of the WWF - Generation Earth collected 18 bags full of garbage in the context of the 2nd Danube Volunteers Day in the Danube-Auen National Park , using the collection and sorting protocol designed in the frame of the project PlasticFreeDanube. Afterwards the collected plastic waste was handed over to project partner PISAS for further analysis. The 2nd DanubeVolunteers Day was organized by DANUBEparksCONNECTED, a cooperation partner of PlasticFreeDanube.
On June 28, 2018, a half-day conference was held in Budapest on the occasion of the International Danube Day, followed by a panel discussion on "Challenges of plastic waste in the Danube region and beyond". Representatives of the project consortium were not only able to present PlasticFreeDanube at this event, but also made valuable contacts to other projects in the Danube region and opened up possibilities for future synergies.
On the 20th of June, the annual Danube Day took place in Vienna with the aim to "Get active for a healthier Danube". More than 1,000 children participated to learn more about nature, flood protection, navigation, water and of course the Danube itself. Also the PlasticFreeDanube team attended with an interactive program in order to raise awareness ato keep the Danube clean. Visitors gained important information and educational advice on plastics, the life span of waste in water and waste prevention.
On 16th of June the Danube Day took place in Bratislava. Project partners PISAS and RepaNet o.z. created an interesting program and gave information about the project. An important part of the program was the training of proper waste separation with kids as well as demonstrating up-cycling PET bottle waste to jewellery.
On the 24th of April the second meeting of all project partners took place at which the hydropower plants Čunovo, Dobrohšť and Gabčíkovo in the Slovakian projects’ area were visited in the morning. In the afternoon the hitherto existing projects’ results of the various work packages were presented and further projects’ activities and possible cooperation were discussed.
Already last autumn and winter, several collection activites have been organised at the Austrian part of the project area. We would like to thank all the volunteers for collecting the material we needed for the sorting analysis! The last five collections within the floodplain of the national park resulted in 245 kilos of plastic waste. The highest amount of this collected material (> 50%) – in terms of overal weight – were PET bottles and expanded polystyrene (e.g. styrofoam boards). The next collection and sorting activities are planned for April 2018 and shall offer further valuable clues to the amount and composition of the plastic waste. We are already curious how the situation has changed after the winter!
Within the cross-border project PlasticFreeDanube viadonau engages together with Austrian and Slovak partners for a comprehensive investigation and for sustainable solutions to avoid plastic pollution in the Danube. In this regard the first meeting with national and international strategic partners took place on January 24th, 2018 in Hainburg, Lower Austria.