Environment For Members

How Austria’s new bottle deposit scheme is going to work

Aaron Burnett
Aaron Burnett - [email protected]
How Austria’s new bottle deposit scheme is going to work
Austria's upcoming bottle deposit scheme is designed to reduce plastic and aluminum waste ending up in nature. Photo by Brian Yurasits on Unsplash

Starting in 2025, people in Austria will pay a 25 cent deposit when they buy drinks that come in plastic bottles or aluminum cans. We look at what the new Pfandsystem (deposit system) involves.


If you return the bottle or can empty, you’ll get the money back.

The deposit scheme is set up to ensure that the containers can be recycled and not end up as litter, both to reduce waste and pollution from containers that end up in nature.

Federal Environment Minister Leonore Gewessler (Greens) announced this week that the political steps were in place to bring the scheme online in 2025, without which Austria will not be able to meet EU recycling targets for 2030.

'The people of Austria want this and are ready for it,' said Gewessler. 'This is how we work together to prevent waste in our beautiful natural milieu.'

The deposit will apply to all containers from 0.1 to three litres in volume, excluding milk containers for hygienic reasons. Cartons are not under the scheme at first, but may be added later.

People will be able to return bottles and cans to any place they’re sold, particularly supermarkets, which will have to invest millions to put the infrastructure in place to take the deposits back.

In Germany, where such a deposit scheme has already been in place for years, consumers typically take containers with a machine-readable deposit symbol to a deposit machine. Such deposit machines are widely available in supermarkets and will dole out a coupon for the amount deposited that the holder can either redeem for cash or credit on their grocery purchases at the store.

In Germany, the scheme has also often led to homeless people stockpiling bottles to redeem large bags of them for cash.


If the container doesn’t have a machine-readable deposit symbol, deposit machines may end up rejecting it, so it may be impossible to get credit on containers brought in from abroad – for example, when you land in Vienna after a trip home with leftover water bottles. You may also not be able to get the credit if the label containing the symbol is removed.

Small shops have some leeway in accepting returned containers. They’ll only have to accept returns in small sales quantities of products they themselves sell, so you won’t be able to take entire shopping carts to them to get the cash back.

The 2025 implementation is designed to allow shops time to prepare and install deposit returns. Gewessler says. Despite the high upfront costs, she says businesses will eventually get the money back, as they can sell the recycled material.

At the moment, over two billion such containers are sold in Austria every year.

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