Facts and figures on the Austrian packaging industry
On the global packaging market, Austria is represented by strong players. How are the country’s companies and society facing up to current challenges? In this market overview, FACHPACK360° provides a brief summary of what makes the Austrian packaging industry special.
The Austrian packaging industry is internationally oriented and diversified - from packaging and packaging materials to machinery and equipment, some of the companies are among the global market leaders. Embedded in the European Union, the manufacturers face similar challenges as their neighbouring countries – first and foremost this concerns sustainability and climate protection. In this respect, the Alpine Republic has set itself ambitious goals: A recycling rate of 50 percent is to be achieved for plastic packaging as early as 2025. In the field of packaging, this applies to beverage bottles, for example: by 2029, 90 percent are to be collected separately and by 2025, 25 percent must contain recycled material.
A framework for this is provided by the Council of Ministers' circular-flow strategy adopted in December 2022. The reusable packaging quota is to be increased, eco-modulation – i.e. levies based on the sustainability of the packaging – is to be introduced and the recyclate use quotas are to be increased. In order to be able to use more recyclate, barriers to the use of recyclate in food packaging are going to be removed. The existing collection, sorting and recycling infrastructure is also the subject of a massive expansion in order for packaging to be recycled. In the course of this, all plastic packaging is collected uniformly throughout the country since January 2023: All plastic packaging goes into the yellow bin or the yellow bag. In addition, the introduction of a one-way refundable deposit for PET bottles and beverage cans between 0.1 and three litres is planned to take effect in 2025.
Recycling has a tradition in Austria
According to the Austrian Food Industry Association, more and more manufacturers are already using rePET. Well-known food brands from Austria consequently have a 100 percent rePET proportion. These brands include, for example, Gasteiner, Mautner Markhof (for the 0.7l syrup bottles), NÖM, Rauch, Rieder's Quellen/Alpquell, Römerquelle, Spitz and Vöslauer. But rePET is also increasingly being used in the food industry beyond beverage packaging, the trade association emphasises.
Among the plastics manufacturers, Borealis, the European number two, is located in Austria. The company produces around one million tonnes of polyolefins per year in Schwechat, which are indispensable as basic materials for plastic packaging. The entire plastics industry in the country sold products worth 5.4 billion euros in 2020. 37 percent of the industry's turnover was accounted for by semi-finished products such as sheets, films, hoses and profiles, and 16 percent by packaging materials.
Austria can draw on a long history of experience in glass packaging: Since the mid-1970s, the material has been disposed of separately from household waste. Every year, the disposal companies collect around 260,000 tonnes of glass packaging and recycle it. According to Austria Glas Recycling, this corresponds to more than 80 percent of the glass packaging consumed. On average, two thirds of domestically produced glass packaging of all colours, shapes and sizes contains recycled glass. Production and recycling takes place at three glass plants of international standing: at two Vetropack Austria locations in Kremsmünster/Upper Austria and Pöchlarn/Lower Austria, as well as a Stoelzle Oberglas plant in Köflach/Styria.
As in Germany, returnable glass bottles are established in the catering industry or in the food trade, for example for beer, but also for mineral water and other non-alcoholic beverages. However, beer and soft drinks are also available in beverage cans. About 70 percent of this type of material is already said to be recycled.
Solid growth based on renewable raw materials
According to the annual statistics of the ÖIV (Austrian Institute for Packaging), there are about 120 manufacturers of packaging materials and packaging in Austria.
The country is traditionally particularly strong in the field of pulp-based packaging. The manufacturers are particularly successful abroad in corrugated cardboard and corrugated packaging. The industry is organised in the PROPAK association and packaging materials represent the most important branch of industry there.In total, the companies of the association sold 1.29 million tonnes in 2021 with a production value of 2.56 billion euros. Corrugated board and corrugated cardboard packaging accounted for 688 million euros of this, folding cartons and solid cardboard boxes generated 471 million euros, flexible and other packaging contributed 175 million euros to sales. In terms of volume sales in millions of square metres, the five member companies of Forum Wellpappe Austria recorded solid growth of plus 3.9 per cent. In absolute figures, this is an area of 270 million square metres. In tonnes, an increase of 4.5 percent was recorded (129,600 tonnes).
The country is also a powerful market for packaging paper. The market here recently grew by two per cent to 2.4 million tonnes. In Austria, 23 companies produce about 5 million tonnes of paper for a wide variety of applications. This is far above the domestic consumption of 2 million tonnes. According to Statista, the largest company in the paper and pulp industry in 2021 was the Mondi Group with net sales of about 7.7 billion euros.
In terms of sustainability, the paper industry does not have to hide its successes: A large part of all cardboard is already produced with the addition of collected paper. The share of waste fibres in the production and finishing of paper and cardboard products is currently at 75 percent.
Despite many similarities to Germany, the Austrian packaging market has its individual strengths and approaches. It is not without reason that the industry giants are regular exhibitors at FACHPACK.