Floods send carpets of plastic waste down river to Hungary

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BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Flooding has sent carpets of waste plastic down river into Hungary over the past few days, officials say, despite earlier pleas to its upstream neighbours Ukraine and Romania for an end to the pollution.

As of Monday, floating garbage disposal units have removed 500 cubic metres of waste from the Tisza and Szamos rivers, Gabriella Siklos, a spokeswoman at the Hungarian Water Authority said.

Plastic bottles are streaming in on the Tisza from Ukraine, where it rises, and on the Szamos river that flows from Romania, said Gabor Molnar, an engineer at the authority, adding that colleagues up river were counting them as they entered Hungary.

"At Tivadar (a village on the Tisza) there are still 50-70 bottles flowing every minute and there are similar numbers on the Szamos River," he said.

While much of the debris flowing downstream is organic when water levels rise, household waste, including slippers and even televisions, appears alongside the plastic bottles, Molnar said.

The floating waste reached Hungary's border late last week, requiring the deployment of disposal teams for the sixth time over the past year and a half, Siklos said, adding that the amount of debris was similar to previous instances.

Last July Hungarian President Janos Ader called on Ukraine and Romania to stop polluting the two major rivers that flow across Hungary after floods brought in "dirty carpets" of plastic bottles from its neighbours.

(Reporting by Krisztina Fenyo; writing by Gergely Szakacs; editing by Philippa Fletcher)