History and principles
In the interests of sustainable development and to protect people as well as our environment, it is necessary to keep pollution to a minimum and to use valuable resources optimally, in line with the circular economy. The BMK is creating the necessary framework conditions for this.
In the 1980s, spectacular cases of contaminated sites attracted a great deal of attention. The causes were insufficient environmental protection measures for the deposit of wastes or careless handling of chemicals. With the Contaminated Sites Remediation Act (Altlastensanierungsgesetz), which entered into force in 1989, framework conditions were created to provide the financial basis for the remediation and to systematically record and evaluate contaminated sites. The contaminated site contribution has also been levied since then. All the information on contaminated sites and suspected contaminated sites in Austria is collected and centrally retrievable via the altlasten.gv.at portal.
The prevention of wastes has priority in the waste hierarchy, before preparation for reuse and recycling. Waste prevention includes all measures that reduce the quantity of waste or the pollutant content in products or that reduce the negative impacts on the environment and human health. The measures to achieve waste prevention are described in the Waste Prevention Programme (in German).
Waste – the resource of the future
Through the recycling of wastes, primary raw materials are replaced and the environmental pollution related to the extraction and processing of the raw materials is thereby avoided. The regularly high recycling rates prove that secondary raw materials are already a fixed element in the Austrian economy. Irrespective of the excavation materials, around 2/3 of Austrian wastes are already recycled. Not all wastes can be recycled, however. Environmentally compatible waste treatment is to be provided for contaminated wastes.
Unavoidable or non-recyclable wastes are to be disposed of in an environmentally sound manner. With regard to the objectives of the Waste Management Act (Abfallwirtschaftsgesetz, abbr. AWG), the pollutant content and reactivity of these wastes is to be limited as far as possible. It is particularly important to only permit landfilling for substances that do not pose a hazard for subsequent generations.
To be able to reduce the landfilling of particular biodegradable wastes, measures that include the recycling, composting, biogas production or the recovery of materials, or rather the recovery of energy, are especially important. In Austria, particular wastes that cannot be avoided are increasingly recycled and composted, used in biogas plants or thermally recycled. In this way, the proportion of municipal waste deposited directly in landfills has been significantly reduced.
Land recycling and brownfields dialogue
The progressive land requirements for operating facilities, housing, traffic, recreational and tourism purposes are leading to a rapid loss of "natural" and therefore biologically productive soil. This has serious consequences: If the filter and storage function of the soil is impaired, the drinking water supply, agricultural food production and biodiversity are endangered. Progressive sealing of surfaces also increases the risk of flooding and intensifies heating effects.
The Federal Government has therefore set itself the objective of reducing land usage to 2.5 hectares per day by 2030. Unused business and industrial sites represent significant development potential. Studies confirm that Austria has many such areas at its disposal, and through their revitalisation, part of the annual land requirements could be covered and new uses of green fields could be avoided.
Waste electrical and electronic equipment and batteries
A crossed-out wheeled bin is the symbol for separate collection. Electrical and electronic equipment must be labelled with this permanently and in a clearly visible and legible manner. Manufacturers, importers and traders are obliged to provide free opportunities for return and to accept returns. Since mid-2006, it has been prohibited to put electrical or electronic equipment into circulation that contains certain environmentally hazardous substances, such as lead, mercury, cadmium, chromium (VI) or certain flame retardants. The sale of equipment that contains these substances is prohibited at all trade levels.
Electrical and electronic equipment contains valuable raw materials and is therefore too precious to be disposed of in the waste. Every refrigerator, every TV set and every mobile phone contains valuable components such as gold, copper or rare elements like iridium, lithium and tantalum. In the case of proper disposal, these can be prepared as so-called secondary raw materials and be reused for new products.