Maehrwegsystem mycoffeecup

Reusable systems to achieve a circular economy

In addition to recycling, the European Green Deal focuses on waste prevention and changes in consumer behaviour. Reusable packaging is the most environmentally friendly solution. Here you can find out more about the positive activities with reusable systems in Austria.

Frans Timmermans, Vice-President of the European Commission, stresses that recycling is not the best answer to the pollution and CO2 emissions from plastics. Returnable packaging is the most environmentally friendly solution and will therefore play an important role in Europe.

Target for higher proportion of reusable beverage packaging anchored in government programme 2020-2024

Currently, the reusable share of beverage packaging in food retailing in Austria is approx. 18 % (mineral water, beer, juices, soft drinks, soda and milk, excluding kegs and containers).

In the government programme 2020 – 2024 "Aus Verantwortung für Österreich", the government parties agreed of creating a binding legal framework conditions. This includes concrete targets for the expansion of reusable systems, in particular for beverage packaging and the reducing of one-way packages through cooperation with retailers, gastronomy and manufacturers.

Mehrwegflaschen Vöslauer

Standardized "norm bottles" on the upswing - movement in the beer industry

Currently, there is mainly only the 0.5 litre standard bottle for beer and beer drinks, the 1.0 litre glass standard bottle for lemonades, fruit juices and mineral water.

Greater use of these uniform, standardised bottles, the so-called "standard bottles", promotes a reusable system and makes logistical cooperation between producers, bottlers and retailers much easier.

The segment of the 0.33l beer bottle has doubled in the last 10 years and currently has a ten percent share of the beer market in Austria. However, the majority of these containers are disposable bottles. The size of the segment is approximately 135 million bottles per year. In order to improve this situation, a working group of the platform Logistikverbund Mehrweg( was set up within GS1 Austria GmbH. The aim is to investigate the market chances of a 0.33l reusable bottle and to work out a recommendation. The clients of a large-scale market research study are currently analysing the results.

Further innovations in the beer industry

To mark the 30th anniversary of the "Pfiff", the Mohrenbrauerei in Dornbirn is presenting the world`s first 33-cl retunrnable bottle made of light glass. The thermally hardened bottle is made of glass from the Swiss Vetropack Group and weighs only around 210 grams, 90 grams less than its predecessor. That is a proud 1.8 kilograms less per crate! With 6.5 million bottles filled each year, a total of 585 tonnes less weight is transported on the roads each year.

Innovations in mineral water in Austria

Already in 2014 Vöslauer as market leader in the Austrian mineral water market set a sustainable accent in the food trade with the re-introduction of the 1 litre glass returnable bottle in the practical 8 x 1 litre split returnable crate. This was followed in 2019 by the 0,5 litre reusable glas bottle, which, like all reusable containers at Vöslauer, has been awarded the Austrian Ecolabel. The sustainable 0.5 litre reusable bottles are transported in the new 8x0.5 litre crate, which is made of 100% recycled material.

Reintroduction of the returnable milk bottle

Austria's largest dairy Berglandmilch has been offering milk in one-litre returnable bottles again since March 2020. This means that for the first time in around 20 years, milk in the refillable reusable glass bottle is available in stores throughout Austria. A reusable bottle will replace more than 15 disposable glass bottles at Berglandmilch. A deposit of 22 cents per bottle will be charged at the supermarket, which consumers will receive back when they return the bottles.

The dairy has invested eight million euros in the conversion to a sustainable filling and washing system at the Aschbach Markt in Lower Austria. Further reusable products are planned for 2020, such as a half-litre reusable bottle and light milk in the reusable bottle. The reusable milk bottles can be returned to the return machines of trading partners throughout Austria.

New innovation in lemonade

The traditional Austrian brand Radlberger offers under the name LIMÖ a lemonade in the environmentally friendly returnable glass bottle in the food trade (Spar, Interspar and Eurospar) throughout Austria. Since March 2020, Radlberger has been sold exclusively in 1l-returnable glass bottles in the stock area; the previous 1.5l PET container is no longer produced. The Radlberger LIMÖ bottles are available in a 6-bottle crate with a practical central carrying handle. Due to the deliberate renunciation of branding, the crate can also be used for other brands. The crate bears the inscription „Ich trage gerne - der Umwelt zuliebe“ (I like to carry - for the sake of the environment) and the reusable logo of the WKO.

Reusable beer tray for multipacks

4- and 6-pack carriers in a cardboard sleeve are gaining more and more importance as promotional units in the trade compared to the classic beer crates. In order to take this trend into account, the L-MW working group has issued a call for tenders for reusable beer trays for multipacks throughout Europe according to jointly developed requirements. The task of the working group "Logistikverbund Mehrweg" was therefore to have a neutral standard reusable tray developed into which all 0.5l reusable bottles commonly used in Austria can be segregated as multipacks from 4-pack to 10-pack and which is also suitable for the return transport of the empties. In this tender two trays met all requirements. After the practical tests carried out with breweries and trading companies were successful, the market launch of "LOGIPACK AllCare Tray 40er" (40x0.5l) was carried out. Meanwhile more than 10 breweries and distribution companies use the LOGIPACK Pooltray with more than 85.000 trays in Austria. The feedback from the breweries is very positive, as the pool trays have proven themselves in both full and empty processes.

Reusable displays in retail

With the exception of the load carrier, custom-made products for promotional use are largely made of disposable material, which is disposed of or recycled after use. The "Reusable Disply" working group was set up to conserve resources. Together with the Ottakringer Brauerei, SPAR, Packservice and under the scientific supervision of Pulswerk, this working group tested the system offered by Polymer in practice. Due to the positive results, Polymer is currently working on a pool solution in order to be able to offer the reusable display system throughout Austria.

Mehrweg bei Green Events Bier

Reusable packaging as minimum standard for Green Meetings and Green Events in Austria

The government parties also agreed in the government programme that federal events (including subordinate agencies and companies that are 100% owned by the federal government) should meet the minimum requirements of the Ecolabel UZ62 "Green Meetings and Green Events".

In the future, sports events and especially major events should at least meet the criteria of Green Event Austria.

At Ecolabel events, glasses, cups, returnable cups, returnable crockery (plates, bowls) and returnable cutlery are an important prerequisite. Beverages must be purchased exclusively in bulk and / or reusable containers, if product availability is ensured.

The reusable criteria for the Austrian Ecolabel for Green Meetings and Green Events can be found here.

Since not every event, especially small regional festivals, can be awarded the Austrian Ecolabel, the network Green Events Austria (federal government, provinces and their regional Green Events initiatives) defined simpler "minimum requirements for sustainble events in Austria".

A decisive point in the area of waste avoidance at sustainable events are reusable systems: Beverages must be purchased in reusable containers (barrels, containers, dispensers, reusable bottles), provided that the respective type of beverage is sufficiently available on the market. Only porcelain cups, glasses or reusable plastic cups are used to serve drinks to guests or participants. Reusable crockery will be used for serving food.

Coffee in returnable cups

The habit of drinking more coffee on the move as a so-called coffee to go, thus contributing strongly to the increase in local waste volumes, is also very widespread in Austria. In Vienna, the Ecolabel pioneer CUP SOLUTIONS has launched the myCoffeeCup project, which offers a convenient and quick alternative to environmentally harmful throwing away. Over 60 bakeries and restaurants in Vienna have already joined the project and offer coffee in returnable cups. The sales outlets use a uniform system. Consumers can return their cups at return points such as vending machines or at system partners. No washing, no drying, no extra work. The myCoffeeCup system from CUP SOLUTIONS offers an innovative, comprehensive and simple simple returnable cup system for coffee to go in Vienna.

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Author of the article: Dipl.Ing. Christian Pladerer, pulswerk GmbH, consulting company of the Austrian Institute of Ecology