Suffocating in the smoke of waste burning

An online survey about domestic waste burning was carried out by the environmental NGO Clean Air Action Group (Levegő Munkacsoport); 415 people filled out the questionnaire within two weeks. The survey is not representative, but the data can be considered reliable as they reflect the information obtained from the enormous number of complaints Clean Air Action Group received over the past years.

Waste burning is only allowed in specialized facilities with stringent filtering systems. Only a handful of them can be found in Hungary, and their air pollution is negligible. Unfortunately, a lot of people burn waste in their stoves, furnaces or backyards, which is extremely harmful to our health.
Based on the responses, this problem is just as prevalent in Budapest as in other parts of the country. From all respondents, 45% reported that illegal waste burning is a daily occurrence. People mostly burn domestic waste, but furniture, PVC, rubber and rags are on the list as well. Most of the people who replied either do nothing (28%) about illegal waste burning, or they try to explain (26%) the severe health consequences to those who are burning waste. They rarely turn to the municipality (19%), the government office (8%), the police (7%) or the county office (6%). Unfortunately, the authorities do not take any measures in the majority of the reported cases (57%). Even if an investigation is started, it rarely leads to results. Only 3 persons reported that the waste burning stopped as a result of the intervention by an authority. Most people think that ignorance is the main cause of waste burning (56%), 30% believes that it is caused by a mix of poverty and lack of information, and only 5% thinks it is only because of poverty.
„The government has a huge responsibility, because a proper public awareness campaign is a very cost-effective way to significantly decrease air pollution from household waste burning” – said Péter Lenkei, Head of the Environmental Advisory Office of Clean Air Action Group. „Procrastination in this case raises special concerns since the damage to Hungary’s economy from air pollution alone is equal to 19% of our GDP according to WHO.”
NGOs can play a very important role in raising awareness. Clean Air Action Group took part in several procedures concerning waste burning, and could stop illegal activities together with the authorities in a large part of these cases. If the authorities are properly informed, the procedures can be faster and more efficient.
Clean Air Action Group gathered this data between 7th and 20th April 2016 under K-Monitor’s „Adatozz okosan!” project.

Further information on the topic:
The full report (in Hungarian):
Natural disaster in our fireplaces,
Air pollution discussed by the Parliamentary Committee,
Fresh air or smog in the mountains?
Burning leaf-litter was banned immediately based on Clean Air Action Group’s measurements,