CEU Group Follows the Trail of Recyclable Waste in Budapest

July 16, 2013

In late June, five members of the CEU community got a firsthand look at the end result of recycling collection in Budapest during a visit to the FE-Group selective waste collection and processing facility in the 10th District.

The students and staff members, who attended received an in-depth tour of the paper, plastic, and electronic waste collection, separation, and processing operations at the FE-Group facility. They got the chance to ask questions regarding the recycling process, the integrity of the system, materials that can and can’t be recycled, and the destination of products after leaving the facility. These are a few of their discoveries:

• The selective waste collected in Budapest’s residential bins and selective islands does end up in a processing facility, and not in a landfill.
• Currently only a small percentage of potentially recyclable waste is collected in Budapest’s central living districts. The city has been working to improve the collection infrastructure but this process has proven more difficult in more densely populated areas in the city. Suburban collection rates are higher than in central districts because of the easier bin placement and efficient collection process using larger vehicles.
• PET plastic (used mostly for bottles and stiff food packaging) is the most recyclable, reusable, and therefore valuable plastic product collected.
• In the recycling industry, price competition is very high and to remain competitive, recycling collection companies must offer cheaper prices for processed materials than companies producing virgin materials.
• “Tetra packs” are sorted separately because the process for separating the plastic, paper, and metal lining of the cartons requires a different process than traditional paper or plastic processing. In Budapest tetra packs should be placed in paper collection bins.
• The collected and processed paper and plastic in Hungary is likely destined for the international market, often ending up in large reprocessing facilities in Germany, Austria, or Romania. Finer metal and electronic materials are often sent to India or China for further dismantling and reprocessing.
• Household electronic items such as TVs, refrigerators, computers, and monitors must be dismantled carefully by hand. Ordinarily, the precious-metal content of computers makes them the most valuable collected household appliance.

CEU participants were Stefan Sipka, MESPOM 2012 graduate, and Tamas Dienes, PhD graduate, both of the Department of Environmental Sciences and Policy; Logan Strenchock, MESPOM 2012 graduate and CEU environmental and sustainability officer; Palma Puskas, assistant in the Campus Services Office; and Julia Michalsky, MA student in the Department of History.

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