Society & education

Waste myths

96 % of Austrian consumers sort their waste to help protect the environment. But there are persistent myths and misconceptions about the separate collection of packaging that, if true, would undermine the rationale of the entire system. Let us debunk these myths.

  • 1
    Myth #1

    “Sorting waste is nothing but a hassle and does not do me any good.”

    Sorting waste is the sensible thing to do: When you sort your waste correctly and separate recyclables from general waste, you produce less residual waste. This, in turn, saves costs on waste management. Today, the amount of residual waste produced in Austria is around 40 % lower than 25 years ago. Also, waste collected separately can be reprocessed into secondary raw materials for use in new products, which helps preserve natural resources, saves energy and reduces harmful greenhouse gas emissions.

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  • 2
    Myth #2

    “The separate collection of packaging doesn’t make any sense at all – we need plastic for the incineration of municipal solid waste.”

    Residual waste can be incinerated without the use of supplementary fuel. Even without plastic packaging, it has a calorific value that is roughly comparable to that of lignite. It burns at a temperature of more than 850 degrees Celsius, and the heat produced can be utilised. There is no need to pre-treat residual waste or add supplementary fuel. It is plain wrong to believe that residual waste cannot be incinerated on its own.

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  • 3
    Myth #3

    “Sorting waste is a waste of time; once collected, the different types of waste are mixed together again and incinerated anyway.”

    The separate collection of packaging is essential for material recovery and processing of new raw materials. It allows processing plastic bottles into new plastic bottles, waste paper into paper products, colour-sorted glass into new glass bottles and metal into a broad range of new products. Only residuals that cannot be recovered because they are too small or soiled are sent for incineration, where they are used for district heating or to produce clean electricity or industrial process heat.

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  • 4
    Myth #4

    “Clear and coloured glass are dumped together in the collection vehicle – so why bother?”

    Every glass collection vehicle has two compartments, which allows transporting clear and coloured glass separately but in one vehicle. Colour sorting is important because even small amounts of coloured glass would impair the colour quality of recycled clear glass. One single green wine bottle is enough to colour-contaminate 500 kg of clear cullet.