Recovery of plastic packaging from mixed municipal solid waste. A case study from Austria

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


  • Dominik Blasenbauer
  • Anna-Maria Lipp
  • Johann Fellner
  • Jakob Lederer

External Organisational units

  • Institute of Materials Science and Technology


Austria must recycle more packaging materials. Especially for plastic packaging waste, significant increases are necessary to reach the EU recycling targets for 2025 and 2030. In addition to improving separate collection and introducing a deposit system for specific fractions, the share of plastic packaging in mixed municipal solid waste (MSW) could be utilized.
In Austria, about 1.8 million tonnes of mixed MSW are generated. This includes about 110,000 t/a of plastic packaging waste. Most of the mixed MSW (94 %) is sent directly or via residues from pre-treatment, such as mechanical–biological treatment or waste sorting, to waste incineration. While materials such as glass and metals can also be recovered from the bottom ash, combustible materials such as plastics must be recovered before incineration.
This work aims to evaluate the recovery potential of plastic packaging waste in mixed MSW with automated waste sorting. For this purpose, two of the largest Austrian waste sorting plants, with a total annual throughput of about 280,000 t/a, were investigated. The investigation included regular sampling of selected output streams and sorting analysis.
The results show that the theoretical recovery potential of plastic packaging from these two plants is 6,500 t/a on average. An extrapolation to Austria results in a potential of about 83,000 t/a. If losses due to further treatment, such as sorting and recycling, are considered, about 30,000 t/a of recyclate could be returned to plastic production. This would correspond to an increase in plastic packaging recycling rate from 25 % to 35 %.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9-22
Number of pages14
JournalWaste management
Issue number15 May
Publication statusPublished - 15 May 2024