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EXPLAINED: The new rules about recycling household waste in Austria

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EXPLAINED: The new rules about recycling household waste in Austria
Trash cans with funny sayings in Vienna (Photo: MA 48 / Christian Houdek)

Austria has very strict rules for waste separation and recycling. Here's what you need to know.


Waste separation is definitely a tricky subject for many people who have recently moved to Austria. Make a mistake and your neighbour will angrily let you know. The good news is that things are about to get simplified as the country has decided on a standard for waste separation.

From now on, all packaging that is not glass or paper goes in the yellow garbage cans of the cities. This includes plastic packaging such as fruit cups, yoghurt pots or bubble wrap. 


Here is what you need to know about recycling in Austria:

Yellow bins: lightweight packaging

Since January 1st, 2023, all packaging except glass and paper will be collected in the yellow garbage bins. 

Lightweight packaging is mainly made of plastic or metal (aluminium or tinplate). Composite materials, for example, beverage cartons, also count as lightweight packaging. Other examples include plastic bottles for food, cans, jar lids, and other packaging that are not made of glass or paper.

Do not throw in any plastic objects (such as children's toys, for example), any extremely dirty packaging, plastic coffee capsules or large waste.

READ ALSO: How to dispose of unwanted furniture or whitegoods in Vienna legally

Brown bins: Organic waste

Also known as Biomüll, it usually has a brown colour. This is where you should throw away your lawn, tree and hedge cuttings. Weeds, shrubs, windfall, leaves, water plants, unseasoned and uncooked fruit and vegetable scraps, stale bread, coffee grounds, or tea leaves. You can also throw away your Christmas tree in them (unless it is too large).

Organic waste disposal is no place for plastic, eco-plastic bags, or eco-plastic products. You should also not throw away meat, bones, food leftovers, large branches, eggs, dairy products, content from vacuum cleaner bags, cat litter, varnished or laminated wood, hazardous waste, composite materials such as nappies or milk cartons, or soil.

Red bins: Paper and cardboard

The Altpapier Karton, a red-coloured waste carton, is where you should dump your newspapers, magazines, catalogues, brochures, books, writing paper, letters, copybooks and telephone directories, as well as clean frozen food boxes, paper bags, and cardboard boxes (folded or filled with paper).

This is not a place to drop any composite materials, such as milk and beverage cartons, carbon paper, dirty papers, wet wipes or kitchen rolls (which belong in the residual waste with other heavily soiled paper) or receipts.

READ ALSO: Why does Vienna’s waste department have a helicopter and a military plane?

Grey bin with grey lid: Clear glass

The clear glass (Weissglass) container, a grey one, will hold clear non-returnable glass bottles and pickle jars (they should be empty but not necessarily cleaned). You can also drop clear, condensed milk, soft drinks, clear glass containers, and transparent wine and liquor bottles.

Do not throw in any coloured glass, bottle caps, corks, lead seals (such as champagne bottles), screw tops, plastic bottles, mirrors, window glass, flat or wired glass, light bulbs, china, crystal glass or drinking glasses.

Grey bin with green lid: Coloured glass

The green container is reserved for Buntglass or coloured glass. This is where you should throw your coloured non-returnable glass bottles, such as slightly coloured glass, wine, soft drinks, and liquor bottles.

Brown and green glass can go in here together, along with other non-clear glasses. 

Just as with the clear glass, it is essential not to throw bottle caps, corks, lead seals (such as the ones from champagne bottles), screw tops, plastic bottles, mirrors, window glass, flat or wired glass, light bulbs, china, ceramics, crystal glass or drinking glasses.


Black bin: Other waste

The black box will receive all your other waste (Restmüll) and any other residual waste that shouldn't be thrown in the recycle bins and is not hazardous or bulky.

Hazardous waste or bulky trash

It is illegal to dispose of hazardous or bulky waste in these containers. Instead, there are several collection points in Vienna and other cities where you can leave them. City services will also collect bulky waste for a small fee.


Comments (1)

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Todor 2023/01/11 01:32
I never knew that food leftovers and meat are not organic waste. So if I grow lettuce in my yard and need to dispose of part of it after making salad --> that's NOT organic.... 🤔 I don't understand this logic - is this really what the source says?
  • Amanda Previdelli 2023/01/11 14:06
    Hi, thanks for the comment - I know it can be very confusing, I'm always second guessing myself when separating the waste at home. About your lettuce, I believe it would be ok if it is unseasoned and uncooked (<a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener nofollow ugc">source</a> says it's ok "ungewürzte und ungekochte Obst- und Gemüseabfälle"). And if you get it from your garden and dispose of it with a bit of soil, as well ("Pflanzen mit geringen Mengen anhaftender Blumenerde im Wurzelbereich").

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