Plastic waste in Austria Generation, treatment and recycling

To meet the ambitious recycling targets and requirements set out in the EU’s Circular Economy Package and to prepare for the implementation of the EU Plastics Strategy, the Federal Ministry invests in innovative research work and studies on plastics. Efforts focus on a quantitative survey of the plastic waste accruing in Austria and on an inventory of established recycling technologies. For this purpose the Federal Ministr commissioned two studies which will be outlined below.

Packages of plastic bottles for recycling
Recycling of plastic bottles, photo BMLRT / Alexander Haiden

Study on plastic waste generation and treatment in Austria

The study “Kunststoffabfälle in Österreich – Aufkommen und Behandlung” was commissioned by the BMNT in 2017 and is prepared in cooperation with the Federal Environment Agency (UBA). It aims to provide comprehensive information on the generation and treatment of plastic waste in Austria (as of 2015). One priority of the study is a detailed quantitative presentation by type of waste and plastic content. Also qualities (major types of plastic) as well as origins by industry and areas of use (packaging, electrical and electronic equipment, transport, construction industry, households, other) of the types of waste are outlined. Waste imports and exports are considered in the quantitative survey. Moreover, a look is taken at state-of-the-art techniques for the treatment of plastic waste on national and European level.

The results of the study show that about 0.92 million tonnes of plastic waste (“homogenous” plastic waste like plastic foils or polyolefin wastes and the plastic portion of plastic-containing wastes like bulky waste or waste electronic equipment) accrue in Austria every year. Approximately 77% of the plastic are contained in mixed waste with different plastic portions.  80% of the plastic waste is “post-consumer waste”; only 20% account for production waste. 28% are recovered; 71% of the plastic waste undergo thermal recycling and 1% is deposited (as plastics contained in specific types of waste).

Study on the sorting and recycling of waste plastics in Austria – status 2019

The study “Sortierung und Recycling von Altkunststoffen in Österreich - Status 2019“ was commissioned by the BMNT in late 2018 and is to be completed in early 2020 in cooperation with the Federal Environment Agency (UBA). Based on the data of the Federal Waste Management Plan of 2017 Austria has presently more than 35 installations for the sorting of waste plastics and over 34 plastics recycling installations. In-depth knowledge about the sorting and recycling technologies for plastic waste used in Austria, reliable information on  total treatment capacities available as well as on the qualities of the plastic waste and recyclates exist, but not to an extent that would allow assessment and evaluation.

The key objective of the project is therefore to create a technical basis for plastics recycling in Austria comprising

  • a systematic description of selected installations for the sorting and recycling of plastic waste;
  • information concerning plastics recycling established in Austria and the sorting and recycling technologies applied;
  • information on present impediments concerning the sorting and recycling of waste plastics from the point of view of Austrian stakeholders.

In addition, a survey of the sorting and recycling technologies for waste plastics and recoverable plastics presently available on the European market is to be compiled.

The information collected will serve as a basis for developing effective proposals for measures to increase the portion of recycled plastic waste in Austria. Based on the outcome of the study, statements on the potential of innovative recycling technologies in Austria, but also on limits of ecologically reasonable recycling of plastics, will be presented.