Trash Day Budapest

gypsy treasure hunt
budapest trash day

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure

Once a year throughout Hungary, each city, town and village allocate a day for large item garbage pick-up.

November 25th was the day we were allowed to place all our junk on the curb. A great way to get rid of old computers, broken furniture, old clothes etc… the stuff that most people can’t get rid of without a large vehicle.

Most people don’t drive in the city, as Budapest has an excellent transit system, so this solution provides residents a one day garbage dump to the side of the road for those items that just don’t fit in the bins.

trash day budapest
Budapest’s garbage day

Where we live downtown Budapest in the 7th district it is a very populated part of town, full of university students, where the traffic is always going, and the parking can be a nightmare! SO, when you get 30,000 people per square kilometre throwing their shit on the curb, inevitably some issues will occur!

Hungary has different days for each district, and they try to keep them rotating to keep the number of scavengers from around the country of Hungary from travelling to each city/area just to rummage through the more expensive neighbourhoods’ trash heaps.

But there seems to be a leak of information, because no matter how quiet and secretive the town hall tries to make rubbish day for each neighbourhood, the scavengers always find out and arrive in droves.

This is good and bad. For us it was more bad as trash day in Budapest district VII came at a high price, around 400€ to be exact.

Let me start from the beginning….

We had a few things to take down to the street dump. Since our arrival to Budapest in September we started replacing furniture in our rental apartment. Towels, sheets, a sofa bed frame, old pots and pans burned by partying tenants, broken wooden chairs fixed so many times they were not worth another tube of wood glue or even a single nail. After 7 years of non-stop rentals, it was time to give The Walnut Apartment a little facelift!  We got rid of stained fabric pillows and sofa coverings, and IKEA furniture. Most didn’t even make it to the curb, instead our neighbours in the building took them for themselves before it made it outside.

Alfonz took them down one by one and within a few minutes they were gone. 

In Hungary most people don’t throw things away, instead they fix things. I know right, what a wonderful concept. Alfonz fixes our things too, and we buy mid-range – high quality products so they last and last. But even for our reuse, reduce, recycle family, some things do get tossed in the garbage can once we cannot fix them anymore.

Some young adults with little money, students, and poor families came throughout the day and the night until the garbage men picked the remains up on the 26th morning. People rummaged through the huge piles of garbage on every street corner and we are situated near a central dumping covered-area near the main road, and being that our neighbourhood is one of the more expensive neighborhoods in the core to buy in, full of working class families; it becomes a junk collectors prime target and they arrive in pick-up trucks with their entire family in search of hidden treasures.

Some are looking for metal, copper wire, and broken appliances while others search for wood products to burn. The clean up after the initial pick-up takes a few more days, as the mess spreads out onto the streets, and items ripped to shreds end up everywhere even under cars, entranceways and littered throughout the walking paths. For a few days my beautiful clean neighbourhood looks like a post war zone.

A saw a young families find an almost brand new sofa bed! I was so happy for them!

But this system does have some consequences as many poor people come into the city, they turn the streets upside down, they break things, drink, do petty crime, and other times not so petty crimes.

Alfonz called me on my drive home after school the Friday the evening before trash day and he said that he would meet us on the corner to park the car. He had a bad feeling about the night ahead, and tried to steer clear from the mountains of garbage when parking our car. Luckily we both got great parking spots in front of our building across from each other. We thought we would be in the clear.

Friday night we went out for dinner at Club 93, and from the window we watched dozens of trucks, vans and larger cars come to our neighbourhood. They piled things into the vehicles until they could not fit anymore, straped things to the roof and off they went. They then went home, unloaded and came back for more stuff. Some yelled to one another from across the street, making quite a ruckus as they went from one pile to the next, and it didn’t stop until the next morning around 8:00am. After a while the calls became drunken heckling when the young men were now out scavenging through the night. This is when it can get dangerous. I suggest staying indoors.

a great way to get rid of old stuff, but for a price
a great way to get rid of old stuff, but for a price

By morning the piles had been nearly picked clean to the bone, the remnants of nearly nothing tangible were left for the garbage men on Saturday morning.

My initial thought was that it wasn’t so bad at all. Even the hours in the morning we couldn’t sleep from the night treasure hunters, the end result seemed fabulous. This was recycling at its finest. Many items would be reused, or turned into something else. Bravo!

And the Roma, or the Gypsy community of Hungary who are underemployed seem to find the most treasures during these garbage dump days. The government frowns upon this, but they are finding ways to survive, so I say hey ho!

BUT… well there is always a but…

We went out for a walk Saturday morning around 11:00 when we noticed that our entire street, every car for the entire city block was key scratched from one end of the bumper clear across to the other. Both our cars were extensively damaged, and will cost us our deductibles to have them repaired and repainted. WFT!! Nothing has ever happened like this in all the years I have been coming here! 

We stopped taking photos of our neighbour’s cars when we reached the end of the city block. Some had scratches on the roof, the back, the hood, these culprits did not stop at just one panel of the car. It seemed to me they were on different sides of the street, going from one garbage pile to the next, and on their way scratched the cars for fun!

Why would someone do this?

I just simply don’t understand?

I was crying when the anger came over me! Not because of the car, it is after all only a car, a thing that can be fixed or replaced. But the bother. Alfonz will have to go through miles of paperwork, endless hassle, and to try to get us rental cars so we can continue working to keep those two cars on the road while both cars are being fixed. And 400€ is a hell of a lot of money here in Hungary!

The average person makes 590€/ month!

SO thanks recycling program and the assholes who came to our neighbourhood! I sure hope you enjoy your free garbage, because that’s what you are, HUMAN WASTE! (and that’s me refraining from what I actually think!)

In other cities in Hungary, like Solymar where we are building our house (more affluent areas who pay higher taxes) they seem to have a better system. Once a year you can call the garbage man directly and have him pick up whatever large garbage you have. And if that’s not enough, you can always meet the garbage man in the early morning and slip him a 2000 HUF if he has the space. Or you can call the city again and pay a small fee to have them come out! This way it is always random, and your village doesn’t end up looking like a garbage dump for a few days. It stops the gypsy caravans from camping out in smaller villages near the city waiting for the trash days to begin, and also stops these kinds of senseless crimes.

gypsies vandalise our cars
VW Golf scratched from vandals during trash collection

I have to believe that desperate people do separate things. However the scratching on our cars were simply a case of vandalism, a needless lashing out. They got nothing from it, except to let us know they would shit on us if they had the chance. It is a reminder that there are people that do not respect the system, those who make wandering out alone after dark unsafe.

Will it always be a case between the haves and the have nots? 

What gets me angry is how hard I had to work, how long we had to save our money to be able to buy that second car. And some self righteous punk comes along with no respect for anyone and ruins them both in one giant swoop of crime.

Nobody bought my car for me. I had to work for it just like everyone else. To think that privilege has anything to do with luck is wrong. Yes sometimes you are born into it, however most people who have some money got it by working and saving while these scumbags were stealing and spending their youth in prison.

The good news is a dark haired woman from outside the city was arrested for scratching cars with her key in our neighbourhood during the rubbish removal days! They suspect she was not alone, but only she was caught. She was here going through the garbage during trash days. We are only guessing that she was the one who ruined both our cars, but if I ever have the chance, I would like to give her a piece of my mind.

gypsies scratched our car during trash day
scratched VW Sharan on trash day night


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