Circular economy

Plastic packaging


Collection

There are two household schemes: In around 60 % of Austria, packaging made of plastic or composite materials is collected in yellow bags or bins together with packaging made of wood, textiles, ceramics and biodegradable materials.

Following consultations with the respective municipal governments, Vienna, Lower Austria, Salzburg, and Carinthia focus on the separate collection of plastic bottles (in some regions together with metal packaging), as plastic bottles can be sent for recycling. Other types of light-weight packaging are collected together with municipal solid waste and used for energy recovery, with ARA paying the associated cost.


Recycling

Plastic packaging is sorted into different types of plastic and sent for recycling. The packaging is shredded, washed, dried, melted and processed into granulate, which is used as a raw material in the manufacture of new products. Plastic packaging needs to be sorted thoroughly before it can be recycled, as the different types of plastic have different melting points and do not mix when melted.

Under certain circumstances, unsorted plastic packaging can be recycled, too: The packaging is shredded and agglomerated in large grains without the granulate stage. This procedure, however, allows manufacturing only massive products in simple shapes, such as panels, gutters or roofing sheets.


Plastic as an energy source

Plastic is made above all of crude oil, which means it is a valuable energy resource. Mixed and contaminated plastic packaging is cut up, processed and incinerated for energy recovery in industrial plants, where it replaces coal, crude oil and natural gas.

In Vienna, Lower Austria, Upper Austria, Salzburg and Carinthia, small plastic packaging is collected together with general waste and incinerated at waste incineration plants. The energy produced is used in public buildings and district heating networks.


What happens next?

PET is a light and virtually unbreakable packaging material that is typically made into beverage bottles as well as non-food packaging, such as boxes, blister packs or transparent foils. Despite the high hygiene standards for food packaging, new technology allows PET to be recycled into new food packaging that cannot be distinguished from packaging made of virgin plastic. A substantial share of the PET bottles we collect is used to manufacture new PET bottles (bottle-to-bottle recycling). Post-consumer PET ground into flakes can also be made into fibres.

 

Did you know that …

  • 3 out of 4 PET bottles are placed in the designated bins and then recycled in Austria?
  • the average PET bottle contains more than 30 % PET recyclate, and some bottles are even made of 100 % recyclate?
  • one kilogramme of plastic packaging has roughly the same calorific value as one litre of fuel oil?