Welcome to the annual Budapest tradition called lomtalanítás!

Literally translating to “the removing of junk”, lomtalanítás is simple: If a Budapest resident can cart his or her unwanted stuff (of any size, shape, or material) to the curb, the city will haul it away on the announced day for free. It all sounds quite straightforward, but there is so much more. Let’s take a closer look.

A day or two before the announced pickup day, mounds and mounds of discards start to pile up on the narrow sidewalks, typically rising as tall as a person and often spilling into the streets.

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Most of the junk comes as no surprise… worn and outdated furniture, filthy carpeting, broken appliances, tattered magazine collections, boxes full of fasteners, luggage with no handles,…

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… obsolete electronics, dismembered dolls, rusty tools, bent bicycle parts, leaky hoses, stained mattresses, cracked mirrors, excess construction materials, random knickknacks, and more.

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Some things were once a source of someone’s livelihood…

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Some things once graced someone’s kitchen…

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Some things qualify as better than junk, but not quite special enough for the antique shop…

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But the fun part is this: In the short time between hitting the curb and pickup by the city, everything is up for grabs. As the piles rise, scavengers materialize out of nowhere, sometimes working alone, sometimes in teams.

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Armed with small trucks, trailers, and shopping carts they rummage through the piles in search of anything that can be reused, repaired, or resold.

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While I never witnessed any outright hostility, I did manage to get some looks from the more serious scavengers as if to declare: “I was here first. Don’t even think about messing with my pile!”

The variety of things cast into the gutter is fascinating, especially when the observer tries to imagine what went on in the lives of their owners.

If these keys could only talk…

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So many things that were once useful or precious to someone… now giving one person’s junk a second chance as another person’s treasure.

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But if you do go rummaging, be careful not to slice or puncture your hands and fingers among the twisted metal and shards of glass, not the mention the leaky cans of unused paint and stinky, gooey who knows what.

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On the assigned day, fleets of garbage trucks and workers (Why do I not have a picture of this you might ask?) disrupt traffic as they methodically and noisily remove kilotons of garbage. In just a matter of hours, all the big stuff disappears…

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What remains in the aftermath are just the small things better left for a broom and dust pan.

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I imagine all these doodads were once collected and treasured by some tinkerer who’s since passed away…

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And, while the bulk of the discards really do qualify as garbage, long forgotten mementos and personal effects now serve as a heartbreaking and intimate view of things someone once held dear, now destined for the landfill…

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The whole event receives mixed reviews by the locals. Appreciated and welcomed by anyone looking for a cheap and convenient opportunity to tidy up while bringing grumbles from those not thrilled by the clutter, noise, and disruption to vehicle and foot traffic.

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And on the day after, all that remains is swept up by swarms of workers armed with brooms and trash cans.

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And in no time, it’s as if lomtalanítás never happened…

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6 Replies to “Budapest: Lomtalanítás”

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