About what doesn’t live in water

nie żyje w wodzie

Our editorial colleague has returned from vacation. Instead of an aesthetic or culinary experience that she could have conveyed to us in a more or less emotional way, we heard a completely different story. Her entire story focused on what she saw in the river valleys and on the banks of the main river, which, by the way, the country is famous for.

“…Do you know how much garbage there was…a massacre… The entire banks of the river strewn with waste, floating on the water so that you couldn’t even see it. It’s a good thing it’s not like that in our country…”

Isn’t there? Are you sure? Facebook is full of posts about illegal dumps by streams and wild dumps by rivers, photos of abandoned bags of garbage, old couches or tires. Everyone intervenes, regardless of age or beliefs. They write to institutions they associate with urban order, garbage, water – they write everywhere.

There are just as many calls for cleanup campaigns, grassroots community initiatives, bringing together enthusiasts willing to devote a Saturday and clean up their neighborhood or the banks of a river flowing nearby, that little piece of the world around them.

If public awareness and willingness to engage in environmental actions is so high, why is so much waste still being dumped and why is there such agitation that no one is cleaning it up. So that’s why?

does not live in water
About what doesn't live in water 1

Each locality is covered by collective waste collection. The waste revolution has extended to all households and all waste generators. It was also described in all the newspapers. Each of us has filed a garbage declaration (on the amount of the fee for municipal waste management)or a cooperative or housing association has done so on his behalf. Uniform segregation rules and the obligation to comply with them apply throughout the country. We are all subject to a fee for the collection of municipal waste that is generated on our property. Costs vary and are charged in different forms, depending on the method of determining the municipal waste management fee adopted by the Municipal Council. The method is chosen from among the methods specified in the Waste Law, and the amount from the declaration is the product of the waste collection rate set by the municipal council and one of the following values:

  • The number of residents living in a given property;
  • The amount of water used at the property;
  • area of the dwelling.

Published online rates from individual municipalities indicate that the per capita municipal waste collection fee ranges from PLN 20 to PLN 36. A household with 4 people and located in a house near the city will, on average, pay approx. PLN 100. This is a significant amount of money in the budget, so assuming we want to use it efficiently, we should all give all the waste generated in the household to municipal services. Since we dutifully bear such high costs, at least let the municipality collect everything from us.

And interestingly enough, it picks up. Everything we put out on the day of waste collection, everything we put in the garbage cans designated for waste, will be collected. Municipalities also collect bulky waste according to a set schedule. That’s why there is so much trash on the banks of rivers and streams, who is dumping waste in and near the waters and for what purpose. Is this a deliberate action or thoughtlessness and stupidity? This question is unlikely to be answered.

Hundreds of institutions and organizations provide environmental education on waste. The Ministry of Environment has developed educational scenarios that can be used in nature lessons. Contests and educational campaigns are being held and are very popular. The National Fund for Environmental Protection and Water Management allocated PLN 371 million in grants and PLN 1.4 billion in loans for the Rational Waste Management program from 2015 to 2023. The National Environmental Protection and Water Management Fund is holding a continuous call for the Rational Waste Management – Part 1 – Selective collection and prevention of waste priority.

This is still not enough. What is needed is a generational change, an educational revolution, so that the habits of disposing of waste in the cheapest way – to the river, to the forest – are eliminated. There are still individuals for whom it is the least problematic to throw a bag of garbage into a stream, and the action “display” front to the river they take for granted. After all, the river will take.

The state is powerless in this case, and the law provides no tools to enforce and punish illegal dumping. The inadequacy of Art. 26 of the Waste Law, which indicates that the owner of waste is obliged to immediately remove it from a place not intended for storage or warehousing. The Waste Law also defines a waste holder, indicating that it is a waste generator or an individual, legal entity or unincorporated organizational unit in possession of waste. The same article also presumes that the landowner is the holder of the waste on the property. An analysis of the regulations in this regard shows that the obligation to remove an illegal landfill rests with the owner of the plot of land where the waste is located. In such a legal state, it becomes unimportant who is littering the riverbanks, who is the generator of the waste, what is important is on whose land it is located and downstream of which river it will flow. If they linger on a watershed then the holder of the waste will be the Water Authority, if on a municipal plot then the authorities of the municipality in question. The ideal situation is to drop off waste on a state plot (for many, state-owned is still nobody’s land) and suffer no financial consequences.

Co nie żyje w wodzie, a w wodzie można to znaleźć? Brzmi jak zagadka dla przedszkolaka. Odpowiadamy: stara wersalka i lodówka, wózek sklepowy, i ten dziecięcy też, opony i błotnik samochodowy, miliony butelek i opakowań plastikowych, szkło, puszki i wszystko, co człowiek wytworzył i co stało się po czasie zbędne. Żadna z tych rzeczy nie służy mieszkańcom wód i każda z nich znalazła się w wodzie z winy człowieka. Zastanawiam się zawsze, czy tego samego, którego mijam na ulicy.

Ruszyliśmy z konkursem Rzeka – nauka płynąca z natury. Ma on na celu zwrócenie uwagi na problematykę zanieczyszczenia rzek, niewłaściwego użytkowania terenów wzdłuż cieków, a także nieuzasadnionej zabudowy dolin rzecznych w Polsce.

As an editorial team, we hope that the photos submitted to the contest will show the beauty of our rivers, and if you have to clean up beforehand to show this beauty, as an editorial team we will be grateful to you on behalf of the rivers and their inhabitants.

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