The Austrian Waste Management Conference is held annually and offers stakeholders and representatives in the industry an opportunity to network and exchange ideas. Last year, the conference slogan was “From scrap to stock”. Major players in the industry gathered in Eisenstadt to present new ways of implementing the EU Circular Economy Package. This year, the emphasis was on the plastics sector and its recycling possibilities.
In adopting the Circular Economy Package, the European Union is establishing legally binding targets for waste recycling and the reduction of landfill waste. The EU has set ambitious goals for itself – even now, 22.5 % of all plastic packing is already supposed to be getting recycled. By 2025, the rate of recycling is to be raised to 50 %, which represents a huge increase. This requires keeping raw materials in circulation as efficiently as possible and for as long as possible. For this to happen, we need to start at the beginning of the value chain – by ensuring that materials can be collected, sorted and recycled as effectively as possible after use.
Kicking off the conference, Dr. Christian Schmidt presented an overview on the topic of maritime littering and described the negligent and inappropriate “disposal” of waste which takes various routes but ultimately ends up in the oceans. Rivers play a big role in the process. The total amount of plastic coming out of rivers is estimated at around 0.5 to 2.7 million tons a year. Based on this, we can assume that about 80 % of the plastic in the oceans comes from terrestrial sources. So the biggest key to preventing plastic from ending up at sea is found on land.
The Austrian Ministry of Sustainability and Tourism provided some insight into current efforts and future plans in the waste management sector. By July 2020, Austrian waste management regulations will be adjusted in accordance with the revised waste management law and combined with the EU-approved Single-Use-Plastic-Directive. This will involve revising various directives, including the Battery Directive and the Landfill Directive.
Director of the Waste Union of Burgenland Johann Janisch later gave a presentation on waste management in the Burgenland region of Austria. Waste arisings in Burgenland add up to about 55,000 tons annually, roughly 63 % of which goes for recycling. The area with the biggest potential for improvement is bulk refuse. An analysis showed that about 30 % of bulk refuse is “actual” bulk refuse, while the rest is comprised mostly of wood and construction waste. The goals of the Circular Economy Package are to be reached in Burgenland through the establishment of waste collection points, the optimization of the collection of organic waste, increased public relations efforts and expanded reuse activities throughout the region.
Dr. Hansen’s presentation stressed the importance of establishing a circular economy and the need for a paradigm shift from product efficiency to consistency. The priority is no longer to consume less material and less energy per product but rather to provide a circular product and design. The idea is to extend the product life cycle through maintenance, reuse or upgrading. The focus is on the reuse of materials in their most valuable form. However, this will require components that are easy to separate and compose circular materials. To use an example, most packing in the retail industry is made of monomaterials, meaning that they could ultimately be recycled at a rate of 100 %.
Our co-workers Sophia and Anna were also there for the second part of the Austrian Waste Management Conference 2019. Click here to read Anna Herist’s synopsis of the events.