Initiating bottom-up management solutions to reduce plastic waste in the Danube Basin – AQUATIC PLASTIC (AQPLA)

About 80% of all marine litter reaches the sea from land-based sources, transported by rivers, and the Danube River Basin is no exception. Plastics, which were once perceived as non-degradable, actually break down into microplastic particles when exposed to sunlight and fluctuating temperatures. This realization has prompted a heightened focus on addressing microplastic pollution in rivers.

The AQUATIC PLASTIC (AQPLA) project’s aim is to provide a thorough database and methodology to map riverine plastic waste, using artificial barriers, such as Hydroelectric Power Plants (HPPs) and remote sensing technologies as tools to measure, monitor and divert riverine plastic waste accumulations from nature to landfills or rather back in the loop.

The project also plans on identifying high risk waste leakage points via remote sensing methods and to find innovative solutions for large scale extraction and recycling of riverine litter and waste accumulated in front of HPPs.

AQPLA focuses on developing comparative monitoring methods to assess the overall size, volume, and combined mass of floating riverine litter accumulations. By providing reliable and user-friendly methods to estimate the size and composition of waste accumulations in rivers, AQPLA offers an additional tool for managing artificial water engineering structures. This helps estimate the costs of mitigation and river cleanup interventions more accurately. Additionally, AQPLA aims to assist the water sector by offering low-cost, high-efficiency professional river cleanup technologies. These technologies not only halt pollution waves but also utilize the renewable energy of the river's flow to separate riverine litter, thereby reducing the overall costs of cleanup operations.

Pilot river cleanup activities will be organised in downstream countries, in the Sava Basin to spread the successful approach of river cleanup actions and prevention efforts in upstream countries of the Danube Basin.

The project focuses on the following 4 areas:

  • Microplastics: creating and testing cost-effective monitoring methods to detect microplastic pollution in fluvial systems enabling data comparison and collaboration among different entities across borders.

The Institute for Waste and Circular Economy (ABF-BOKU) and the Institute of Hydraulic Engineering, Hydraulics and River Research (IWA-BOKU) at BOKU are playing a leading role in the development and provision of a cost-effective harmonised method for investigating microplastic pollution in rivers. While the IWA-BOKU focuses on sampling, the ABF-BOKU is concerned with the further treatment of the sample up to the analysis of the microplastic particles. In order to provide researchers, decision-makers and the interested public with access to holistic, comprehensive information on fluvial microplastic pollution, an openly accessible, expandable database is being created.

  • Macroplastics: testing remote sensing monitoring and quantification methods for riverine waste accumulations to help the early detection of plastic flood events and environmental catastrophes; Aiding HPPs manage large riverine litter accumulations by providing guidance on monitoring and extraction while also making waste extraction profitable through game changing recycling protocols for intercepted and selected riverine plastics.
  • On-field commitment: organising various type of pilot cleanup actions at high-risk leakage points and hotspots identified by remote sensing technologies including small scale (for inclusion of locals) and large, industrial-scale cleanups at landfills and dumps – where authorities will be notified to join and discuss possible ways of restoration.
  • Dissemination and capacity building: by engaging stakeholders in data collection, methodology testing and cleanup pilot actions the solutions above can serve as valuable evidence for policymakers, while also expanding the transnational RiverSaver community trough field-based trainings and interactive roundtable events to establish their strong commitment.

This project is supported by the Interreg Danube Region Programme co-funded by the European Union. Total Project Budget: 2,166,493.5 EUR, Interreg Funding: 1,733,194.8 EUR

Link to the website:


CARE project empowers households to reduce food waste and extend the lifespan of clothes

CARE is a new and innovative Horizon Europe project committed to promoting sustainable living and combatting climate change by transforming 100 households across Europe by 2027. Centered on reshaping daily habits, specifically in the realms of food and clothing, CARE collaborates closely with citizens, providing personalized, inclusive, and complimentary advisory services to foster sustainable consumption practices.

Driven by a mission to inspire positive behavioral changes, CARE focuses on empowering households to embrace sustainable choices. The project seeks to revolutionize the way individuals interact with and approach their consumption patterns.

The Circular consumption Activities to tRansform households toward material Efficiency (CARE) project is carried out by eleven consortium partners from six European Countries. The Institute of Waste Management and Circularity is responsible for the evaluation of the processes. A comprehensive impact assessment will be carried out to measure progress in material efficiency, living conditions and sustainable well-being. Using methods such as life cycle analysis and the Product Environmental Footprint, the project will quantify the reduction in environmental impact.

Join the conversation using #CareCircularHouseholds.

For more information, visit our website:

For media inquiries, interviews, or further information, please contact:

DI Dr. Gudrun Obersteiner gudrun.obersteiner(at)

The CARE project is funded by the European Union under Grant Agreement No. 101135141. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Research Executive Agency (REA). Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.

Tid(y)Up: F(ol)low the Plastic from source to the sea: Tisa-Danube integrated action plan to eliminate plastic pollution of rivers

© BOKU-Mayerhofer

Despite the advanced waste management and ambitious recycling objectives of the EU, studies indicate the presence of plastic and microplastic pollution in rivers of CE. From a water quality perspective, it is a challenge to prevent this new threat. For this reason, Tid(y)Up project - co-financed by the EU in frame of the Danube Transnational Programme from ERDF - is focusing on the improvement of water quality and reduction of plastic pollution of the Tisa river from its source to the Black Sea.

Currently there are no standard methods and consistent data available on plastic pollution of rivers in the Danube Basin that would help harmonized actions of water management authorities and allow cooperation with other sectors necessary to stop the pollution. Within the project partners develop and launch a set of integrated actions, consult and provide tools for relevant stakeholders and initiate long term transboundary and intersectoral cooperation with the aim of eliminating the plastic pollution of rivers.

The project operates with a list of diverse tools including scientific actions to standardize methods for estimation of the size of pollution, formulating recommendations toward a standardized measurement and analysing method, on-site expeditions, pilot-actions for identification and clean-up of polluted areas and sources, development of an online "pollution map" to localise hotspots as well as education and awareness raising actions for the prevention. The novelty of the project is that it provides tools, data and the assessment of various used methodology for understanding of the sources, nature and risks of contamination flows; and delivers practical examples of possible actions and legislative solutions both on local and transnational level.


Project partners: consortium of 8 partners (Environmental authorities, NGOs, Universities and research facilities) from seven countries
Co-funding by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Regions and Tourism (BMLRT) and the Federal Ministry for Climate Protection, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology (BMK).


Contact: DI Gudrun Obersteiner

PlasticFreeDanube – Macro plastic waste in and along the Danube river

Plastics can be found in almost all areas of life, which is reflected in the continuing global demand for the material. However, the increasing production also increase the input of plastics into the environment. The pollution of the oceans by plastic waste is currently one of the greatest global challenges. Estimates suggest that up to 80% of marine waste comes from land-based sources and is primarily discharged via rivers. However, the sources and origins of plastic waste as well as transport routes and environmental impacts in fluvial systems are still insufficiently researched.

The cross-boarder project "PlasticFreeDanube" (financed by European Union subsidies within the framework of Interreg Slovakia-Austria) starts here with the development of a sound knowledge base on the occurrence and composition of macro plastic waste (>5mm) in and along the Danube. In addition, the analysis of transport behaviour, the retention potential of hydropower plants and environmental influences are in focus. A material flow analysis incorporates the generated data on the origin, quantities and composition of the plastic waste. The results are also used as a basis for prevention measures. In addition to education and training materials to raise awareness, a communication and information platform serves to disseminate the findings. Derived recommendations and suggestions for improvement result in an action plan for political and strategic decision makers.

Project partners: ABF-BOKU, IWA-BOKU, viadonau, Donau-Auen Nationalpark, RepaNet, Polymer Instiute SAS


Contact: DI Gudrun Obersteiner

CEWA - Circular Economy of Waste

The 3-year CEWA project aims at finding an innovative approach to waste management with a focus on applicability in the Czech and Austrian border regions. The main output of the project is a strategy to support the objectives of the circular economy. Thematically, this project focuses on food waste, electric and electronic equipment and littering.

The Institute of Waste Management will carry out a representative survey of food waste in households in order to identify reasons for disposal and to develop targeted prevention measures. In addition, the potential of electrical appliances that are no longer used and stored in households although they are still functioning and could be considered for reuse is being surveyed. It will also be examined what happens to waste electric and electronic equipment collected in the context of 1:1 take-back systems and generated in large companies in order to explore re-use potentials.

These project results will be presented in a bilingual summary report based on theoretical studies, analyses, pilot studies and practical tests.

Further information on this project can be found here []

Project partners: Energy Agency Vysočina (lead partner), Association of Municipal Services in Třebíč, City of Prachatice, Municipal Association for Waste Management and Dues Waidhofen/Thaya, ABF-BOKU

Project duration: 01/2020 - 12/2022

Contact: Dipl.Ing. Gudrun Obersteiner

Urban pop-up housing environments and their potential as local innovation systems

The need for temporary housing particularly in urban environments is expected to increase dramatically. To address these urgent demands, it is important to find affordable and flexible but sustainable and reusable concepts that are easy to construct and rapid to implement. However, to go one step further, temporary housing will be conceptualized as local innovation systems. In this respect, this project, funded by the WWTF, focuses on an inter- and trans-disciplinary approach to systematically investigate and evaluate existing temporary housing options, and to create holistic, innovative and sustainable models for pop-up living systems in urban environments. Methods from urban and landscape planning, architecture and building systems technologies are interlinked to resource related disciplines such as energy optimization, green technologies, sustainable waste management, water supply and wastewater treatment as well as social and political sciences. Diverse modelling approaches are integrated into a cross-disciplinary model and subsequent scenarios of pop-up housing environments are developed for different target groups and types of urban spaces. Risk assessment approaches as well as energy and life-cycle-assessments are applied to evaluate the housing models. This research clearly goes beyond state-of-the-art, since for the first time a systemic modelling approach is applied to develop high-quality and sustainable temporary housing environments as innovation niches within urban systems.

Project duration: April 2018 – March 2021

Further project information:

Contact at ABF-BOKU:
Marion Huber-Humer (project coordination): marion.huber-humer(at)
Julia Zeilinger: julia.zeilinger(at)

Plastic Pirates – Go Europe!

a Citizen Science Initiative to study plastic pollution in rivers

The pollution of beaches and riverbanks in Europe with plastic waste does not stop at borders. Avoiding micro- and macroplastics in the environment, the scientific classification of this challenge and research into sustainable materials are therefore tasks on which we must work together throughout Europe.

Plastic Pirates - Go Europe! was first developed as Plastic Pirates in Germany in 2016. Since January 2022, with the support of the EU Commission, the initiative has been extended to all of Europe as a European citizen science action, where school classes and youth groups (young people aged 10-16) collect plastic samples from streams and rivers and document their findings. The data collected across Europe is entered into a database and then analyzed by scientists*.
Young people who are interested in science and the environment are thus given the opportunity to participate in practical research. They make an important contribution to research into the state of European rivers and the extent and pollution caused by plastic waste.

As part of the project, the types of waste identified by each group (e.g. cigarette butts, pieces of foil or packaging) are recorded on a suitable riverbank or stream with the help of detailed action materials and subsequently published on a digital map. The data collected by the young people will then help the scientific community to gradually close existing research gaps on the occurrence, composition and generation of plastic waste.

Interested school classes and youth groups are invited to participate in the initiative.


Contact: DI Dr. Gudrun Obersteiner
Email: plastic.pirates(at)

Circular WEEEP :Design and test of policies for reducing, repairing, recovering and reusing waste from electrical, electronic equipment and plastic in Central Europe

Waste from Electrical and Electronic Equipment is one of the fastest-growing waste streams in Europe. Regional approaches to reducing, recovering and reusing such equipment need to be better coordinated to prevent illegal waste trafficking and disposal across borders.

The Circular WEEEP project connects public authorities to identify good practices and define common waste criteria. In WP1, a transnational methodology is developed, which allows local, regional, and national institutions to design Action Plans which will increase their capacity to transform current WEEEP management into a circular WEEEP. In WP2, pilot actions are implemented to test the action plan solutions for transnational WEEEP-CE management. The pilot actions refer to the design of appliances, re-use and recycling and awareness-raising. In WP3, digital solutions for the circular economy of WEEEP are tested and implemented, with increasing capacities of central European public and private stakeholders to implement circular economy policies and to exploit innovative solutions in practice.

Project partners: Czech Technical University in Prague (Lead partner), Province of Rimini (Italy), Municipality Rogaška Slatina (Slovenia), REUSE Center (Slovenia) , PI RERA S.D. for Coordination and Regional Development of Split Dalmatia County (Croatia) , ASSO Agency for Sustainable Development (Italy) , Bratislava Old Town (Slovakia), Regional Development Agency in Bielsko-Biała   (Poland), City of Lublin (Poland), Bielsko District (Poland), ABF-BOKU, Municipality of Gdańsk (Poland)


Facebook: Circular WEEEP

Project duration: April 2023 to March 2026

Contact: Ao.Univ.Prof. Dipl.-Ing. Dr. Stefan Salhofer


The REWIN project is aimed at shutting down material cycles in the production and recycling of electronic products in the People's Republic of China. For this purpose, a waste detection system will be developed and established in a first step. This is of particular importance in order to obtain more accurate information on quantities and qualities of production waste from this sector. As a second step, a secondary materials exchange will be set up where supply and demand can be matched. Based on the data from the waste detection system, potentials for increasing resource efficiency are identified (eg by reducing waste and other losses, increased use of secondary materials) and presented using best-practice examples. As a contribution to the overarching goal of cycle closure, recycling technology for WEEE will also be optimized and options for recycling-friendly design (design for recycling) will be explored. These activities are accompanied by training and education programs for manufacturers, recyclers and authorities. Kontakt: Ao.Univ.Prof. Dipl.-Ing. Dr. Stefan Salhofer

FUSIONS (Food Use for Social Innovation by Optimising waste prevention Strategies)

Efficient use of resources and a significant reduction of food waste along the value chain from field to plate. That is the goal of FUSIONS, a 4-year European FP7 project that unites universities, knowledge institutions, consumer organizations and corporations. The ambition is to avoid food waste by stimulating social innovation in case studies, the evaluation of methods for monitoring and the development of guidelines for national as well as EU policy-makers. Homepage:

FUSIONS on Facebook Contact: Dipl.-Ing. Gudrun Obersteiner