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Incinerators may not be as bad after all 

10 June 2009

Incineration is an integral and necessary part of the recycling process and sustainable development, said a leading waste management expert at the Austria Showcase on Waste Technology, held on 8 June at Dublin’s Shelbourne Hotel.  

Any waste that is to be recycled involves an element that requires incineration, be it paper, plastics, construction waste or even glass bottles. This is due to the varying composites of materials such as labels or foils.

Over 40 representatives from waste management companies, government departments and local authorities came to meet the seven Austrian companies and two speakers who travelled to Dublin to showcase waste management practices in Austria. The Irish audience was introduced to Austrian waste management by Hubert Reisinger, a senior policy adviser to the Austrian Ministry for the Environment. A second address was given by Franz Neubacher, general manager of UV&P and a leading figure in waste management consulting and engineering. Throughout the day, Irish companies had a chance to talk to their Austrian counterparts in individual meetings about possible co-operation (downloads of the presentations and the event brochure including a full list of Austrian participants and their activities are available below).

Austrian companies are leading players in the global waste management industry. This is due to early initiatives taken by the Austrian government to create incentives to reduce landfill and promote the generation of value from waste. Austria has now the highest level of organic waste diversion and composting in Europe as well as one of the highest levels of waste recycling worldwide. Compost Systems GmbH has recently been appointed by the city of Mumbai to compost the municipial waste there. In Ireland, they have already supplied a composting system to a Cork-based company.

One of the latest trends in the waste-to-energy area is biological treatment, where energy is generated from biomass such as food and slaughterhouse waste. This has the advantage over energy crops in that no land has to be diverted from food production. At the showcase, this sector was represented by Enbasys and Entec, global players with contracts in many parts of Europe and the U.S. With the development of High Load Hybrid Reactors, Enbasys is a pioneer in anaerobic digestion technology.

A surprise success story was the rise of Shop2Win Marketing GmbH. The company developed a computerised system from an initial idea of a purchase-linked computer game, which has been adapted to manage and record real-time data in the bin collection area. Their recycling bins are particularly useful for apartment blocks. The company’s breakthrough came about in Norway, where the small bins with the large underground waste storage area are in widespread use. A major advantage of the system is that the waste held underground can be retrieved by the touch of a button in a single-man operation.

The most recent national and regional waste management plans advocated incineration as one of the principle means in managing the country’s waste. However, the Minister for the Environment John Gormley recently announced to issue a policy directive to the Environmental Protection agency (EPA) and the local authorities that would limit the volumes of waste disposed of through incineration and instead focus on mechanical and biological treatment (MBT). The Austrian experience shows that successful waste management requires the implementation of both. Not all waste can be treated with MBT and this is where incineration takes over.

The debate around incinerators in Ireland has been dominated by the notion of the negative impact caused by emissions, which spurred strong opposition among residents groups. However, this view is said to be misleading as emissions can be easily controlled with effective filter media. ‘The air that comes out of the incinerators is actually cleaner than the air sucked in’, as Volker Bilandt from Lenzing Plastics, a leading manufacturer of filter components for removing dust from incinerators, pointed out.

Austria has 42 operating waste incineration facilities and 17 MBT plants, with a further 8 and 6, respectively, having been approved. The most famous incinerator is located in the heart of its capital Vienna and has been designed by famous Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser.


Austria Showcase: Waste Management Technology [pdf, 499.1kb]
Waste Management in Austria - How to Avoid Wasting Waste by Hubert Reisinger [pdf, 2,963.4kb]
Today's Projects - Tomorrow's Solutions by Franz Neubacher [pdf, 6,483.4kb]