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Cleanup Mission: Slovakia 2021 – an important reunion!

Last October, our garbage collection boat CollectiX worked on the Ružín dam for the second time. It was important to get garbage out of the water there again. However, German companies must assume more responsibility for sustainable change.

It has now been a few weeks since we cleaned up the Ružín dam in Slovakia with our garbage collection boat CollectiX. Our goal was clear: to regain the beauty of the region and make constant change visible. We succeeded, as our before and after pictures show. We were even able to go far beyond our first success in 2020 and collect more than 72 thousand kilograms of garbage – because unlike our first cleanup mission at Ružín Dam, this time we were on site for six weeks rather than three days. Enough time to clean up the entire dam without leaving a visible plastic bottle in the water.

This was made possible above all by our partnership with Mastercard, through which the mission could be sponsored and supported. We were able to work through until the last kilogram of garbage was on the conveyor belt of our CollectiX. And that was crucial for the success of this second Slovakia mission because we already knew from the first cleanup mission that the lake was not yet clean and that garbage would follow. After our very first assignment, we were finally able to complete our assignment there.

But tidying up longer also means more organization, being prepared for more unpredictability. Because there was a lot of it – right at the beginning of the mission, for example, the water level was significantly lower than expected.

Inga Hilbig explains in our “three-question interview” how we react to such circumstances, what role we play as a German company and German industry in general and why we will not have been to the Ružín dam for the last time. Inga is Marketing Manager and is part of the team that organized and oversaw the mission.

Inga is marketing manager at everwave and organized the second Slovakia mission from our office in Germany.

  • Dear Inga, this is the second time we have been to Ružín Dam. What’s next?

We know from our local partners – these are the water protection authority SVP and the NGO Precious Plastic – that a lot of garbage washes up again, especially in spring after the snow has melted. So that our work is not only temporarily successful, we are looking at how we can establish a long-term solution on site. The most important thing, however, is that our long-term measures, which we take with our local partners on site, show their effects. This includes using various media to raise awareness of how plastic is handled and how it enters it. In addition to the media, politics plays a decisive role in this. It is nice that Slovakian politicians recently introduced a PET tax. This will not immediately improve the situation at the Ružín dam, but shows that progress is being made. This year we will also hold talks with politicians on how the situation can be improved in the long term.

  • How important are we as a German company in this process? More and more companies are assuming the role of “savior from the West”.

We have to ask ourselves this question anew on every mission. As with all our missions, we attached great importance to working with local partners on the Ruzin Dam long before the actual operation. The garbage is finally processed in local recycling centers, and our boat is also operated in the long term by Slovak workers. It’s about a common, structural change – and what that looks like, the local people know best. We initiate the process with our clean-up technology, but never finger-wagging or playing heroes.

  • Nevertheless, you keep emphasizing that German companies have to take responsibility. What do you mean?

Well, plastic waste doesn’t stop at borders. Some of the garbage that we find in other European countries comes from Germany. Just at Ružín Dam we found lots of plastic packaging of German products: DM shower gel, Nivea hairspray, and Rama margarine containers are just three examples. We cannot yet conclusively assess whether they come here from far away via rivers and streams or whether German companies sell their products locally anyway and the route to the environment is therefore even shorter. However, it is clear – and our missions keep reminding us of this – that German companies have a responsibility to dispose of this waste again and to prevent it in the future.

  • Thank you for the interview, Inga!