In the second part of our insights into the Austrian waste management, Ms. Ingrid Winter from the Styrian state government (A14 – Department of Waste Management and Sustainability) explains which awareness-raising measures the Styrian Provincial Government is using to sensitize the population to the topic of “circular economy” and what she would advise other countries to establish a functioning waste management system.
In addition to the legal framework and the infrastructure of the municipal and private-sector, the separation behavior of citizens plays an essential role for a functioning waste management system. What awareness-raising measures does the state of Styria use to sensitize the population to the topic of “circular economy”?
“Circular Economy” requires that the waste hierarchy (prevention – preparation for reuse – recycling – other recovery – disposal) as a waste management principle is consistently implemented at all levels.
In this context, we rely on a variety of awareness-raising measures. An essential instrument for raising awareness in the population are the professional waste and environmental advisers of the Styrian Waste Management Associations. The annual publicity campaigns of the Styrian Waste Management Associations aim to conserve resources through better waste separation (for example, campaigns on old clothes (2015) and biowaste collection (2016/17)).
Numerous projects in kindergartens and all types of schools focusing on waste prevention, waste separation and sustainable consumption were implemented based on pedagogical material (for example WEEE school case of the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Association). For Styrian schools, the offer was developed to book a „footprint coach“ of the Environmental Education Center (UBZ) for special action days in order to pave the way for a smaller ecological footprint.
With the modernization of the Styrian waste collection infrastructure, above all by establishment of central and customer-friendly “resource parks”, the collection of valuable materials should be significantly increased. In addition, they should also act as centers of environmental and waste advice and thus to raise awareness.
Since 2015, the seminar “volunteer waste coach” has been offered to private individuals who want to volunteer for waste prevention in order to achieve better waste separation and resource conservation in their personal environment.
The “big Styrian spring cleaning”, which was launched in 2008, has become an integral part of the awareness-raising measures against littering, waste prevention and environmental protection. Since then, it has been carried out annually over a period of about 4 weeks with the partners ORF Styria, the Styrian Chamber of Commerce and Styrian waste management associations and with the active participation of numerous associations, organizations, schools and municipalities. At the “Spring Cleaning” 2018, a new record was achieved with 55,000 participants and 220,000 kg of collected waste. We don´t know any other major regional anti-littering campaign worldwide.
In the field of waste prevention, there are subsidies for washable and thus reusable diapers and for low-waste events according to the criteria of “G’scheit Feiern”. Every year around 200 events in Styria are organized under “G’scheit Feiern”, which comply with the must criteria for waste prevention (eg exclusive use of reusable and reusable crockery) and regional origin of the food. Up to 90 % of the waste amounts, which are produced at “usual” events, are avoided by applying those criteria. Since 2017 “G’scheit Feiern” is part of the Austria-wide “Green Events Austria” network
In the area of awareness raising, we of course also cooperate with many other Austrian players in waste management. For example, in 2015 we have developed the “Fair Fashion App” together with the Federal State of Tyrol and Joanneum Research. In this app businesses that offer fair and sustainable fashion can present themselves. With regard to the prevention of food waste, the initiative “Food is precious” of the Federal Ministry for Sustainability and Tourism is supported.
Many countries outside, but also in Europe, are faced with the challenge of establishing a functioning waste management system. What would you recommend to these countries from the perspective of the public sector?
I would recommend creating a comprehensible framework. This includes from my perspective to implement the necessary laws and regulations for separate collection and implementation of the waste hierarchy, to implement appropriate governance measures (financial incentives through taxes, other incentives, implementation of the polluter pays principle), and to adapt the principles of public procurement in a targeted manner in order to set an example and to use public funds for sustainable development and cycle-oriented products.
Waste management will only be sustainable if all stakeholders are involved. With both the economy and representatives of municipalities, common solutions should be sought through dialogue. Last but not least, the population must be inspired by information and awareness-raising measures for a sustainable circular economy.
Dr. Ingrid Winter leads the Department of Waste Management and Sustainability of the Styrian Provincial Government and represents the country in various regional, national and European expert committees. In addition, the department handles subsidies for waste management and sustainability, makes official experts for waste management available to the public authorities and carries out various specialist projects. The unit “Sustainable Development” implements the UNO Sustainability Goals in the Styrian state administration as the current lead project.
Office of the Regional Government of Styria
Directorate 14 – Department Waste Management and Sustainability
A-8010 Graz, Wartingergasse 43
Head of Department:
Dr. Ingrid Winter