Waste prevention & Re-use

Waste prevention and re-use have the highest priority in waste management and represent an important research focus at ABF-BOKU. Our approach focuses on the entire life cycle of consumer goods and material flows (e.g. food, electronic equipment, bulky waste, plastics). The emergence of consumer goods after their use is analysed taking into account individual, psychological (e.g. consumer behaviour) and contextual (e.g. social, legal and economic) influencing factors.

In order to enable targeted waste avoidance and control consumer behaviour, it is essential to understand the motivation behind the intention to dispose of waste. Based on the waste-related characteristics, instruments and incentive systems are analysed and approaches for waste avoidance, product design and optimisation over the entire product life cycle (re-use, repair, etc.) are developed. The ABF-BOKU collects basics, develops concepts, accompanies measures in the implementation (e.g. further education programmes) and develops methods for their evaluation.

A current focus is on food waste.

Contact person: DI Gudrun Obersteiner

lead publication
  • Scherhaufer, S, Moates, G., Hartikainen, H., Waldron, K., Obersteiner, G.(2018): Environmental impacts of food waste in Europe. WASTE MANAGE. 2018; 77: 98-113
  • Lebersorger S., Schneider F. (2011): Discussion on the methodology for determining food waste in household waste composition studies. In: Waste Management 31 (9-10), pp. 1924-1933.
  • Salhofer S.P., Obersteiner G., Schneider F., Lebersorger S. (2008): Potentials for the Prevention of Municipal Solid Waste. In: Waste Management Vol. 28, No. 2, pp. 245-259, ISSN 0956-053X.

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.

Homepage: https://www.plastic-pirates.eu/at

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

URBANWASTE ("Urban Strategies for Waste Management in Tourist Cities")

is a three-year research project funded by the EU research program Horizon 2020 under the coordination of the Government of the Canary Islands. The aim of URBANWASTE is to develop environmentally friendly and innovative waste prevention and management strategies for selected cities with high tourism volumes in order to reduce urban waste production and to support the reuse, recycling, collection and disposal of waste. Within the URBANWASTE project, ABF-BOKU is working with other partners to develop strategies for tourism destinations to meet these waste management challenges.

You can find more information here.

Project partners: Multi-stakeholder project consortium of URBANWASTE consisting of 27 partners from 12 European countries with among others leading universities, other research institutions as well as representatives of local and regional authorities and waste management associations.

Homepage: www.urban-waste.eu

Contact us: DI Gudrun Obersteiner

3 years STREFOWA - results, experiences and future

Whole 3 years of efforts to avoid and manage food waste have passed like a flash. Nine partners from five different Central European countries (Italy, Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Austria) have pulled together in the Interreg project STREFOWA - jointly launching pilot actions, conducting joint research and deriving joint measures as well as sustainably networking actors from the entire project area.

Project results from Austria
Six of the 16 pilot actions within the STREFOWA project took place in Austria. Information and, if available, materials on all pilot actions can be found on the project homepage: www.reducefoodwaste.eu

Further information can be found here

Contact us: Dipl.Gudrun Obersteiner


The name is program! The cross-border project (co-financed by INTERREG V-A SK-AT) aims at reducing the amount and negative impacts of macro plastic waste in river ecosystems with a focus on the Danube. Besides the development of a sound knowledge base on input sources, transport routes and environmental hazards, the focus is on the development of a methodology and data collection for the assessment and monitoring of plastic waste. Awareness raising of the public and stakeholders regarding plastic pollution of rivers and possibilities of waste prevention should ensure a plastic free Danube in the future!

Further information can be found here

Project partners: ABF-BOKU, IWA-BOKU, viadonau, Danube Floodplain National Park, RepaNet, Polymer Instiute SAS

Homepage: https://plasticfreeconnected.com/plasticfreedanube

Contact us: DI Gudrun Obersteiner

Tid(y)Up: From the source to the sea

Now it's time to clean up and fight the plastic dirt! Tid(y)Up is the name of the new innovative project that aims to improve the water quality and reduce the plastic pollution of the Danube and its tributaries (focus Tisza). Supported by the INTERREG Danube Transnational Programme, recommendations for a standardized monitoring of rivers for the regular analysis of plastic pollution are formulated. Besides generating necessary information, the main focus is on raising awareness of the relevant actors and providing them with practical tools to create active, cooperating communities in the fight against plastic pollution.

Further information can be found here

Project partners: Eight project partners (environmental authorities, NGOs, universities and research institutions) from seven countries

Homepage: http://www.interreg-danube.eu/tidyup

Contact us: DI Gudrun Obersteiner

CEWA - Circular Economy of Waste

In the three-year Interreg project CEWA, Czech and Austrian partners are working together on an innovative approach to waste management with a focus on applicability in the border regions of both countries. The main output of the project is a strategy to support the objectives of the circular economy. Thematically, this project focuses on food waste, electrical appliances and litter waste.

Further information 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

Homepage: https://www.at-cz.eu/at/ibox/pa-2-umwelt-und-ressourcen/atcz205_cewa

Contact: Dipl.Ing. Gudrun Obersteiner

Waste prevention in the hotel industry

In a two-year project, in cooperation with ÖHV and Zerowaste Austria, we were able to analyze in several hotels throughout Austria where the greatest potential for waste avoidance exists. Best practice examples were collected to show the feasibility. The results have now been summarized in a guide.

Project partners: ÖHV und Zerowaste Austria, financed by VKS


Contact: Dipl.Ing. Gudrun Obersteiner

LOWINFOOD - “Multi-actor design of low-waste food value chains through the demonstration of innovative solutions to reduce food loss and waste”

LOWINFOOD is a four-year EU project (H2020) that aims to create low-waste food value chains by supporting and evaluating the demonstration of a range of measures. The project focuses on the implementation and evaluation of existing technologies and solutions against food loss and waste.

You can find more information here.

Project partners:
Università degli Studi della Tuscia (Italien/Projektleitung)
Alma Mater Studiorum — Università di Bologna (Italien)
Sveriges Lantbruksuniversitet (Schweden)
Fachhochschule Münster (Deutschland)
The James Hutton Institute (Großbritannien)
Tampere University (Finnland)
Harokopio University (Griechenland)
Österreichisches Ökologie-Institut (Österreich)

Homepage: https://lowinfood.eu/

Contact: Silvia Scherhaufer