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| be Waste Wise | March 23, 2023

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Making the Spittelau Waste-to-Energy Plant Possible

Making the Spittelau Waste-to-Energy Plant Possible

Thanks to the Earth Engineering Center for making this knowledge sharing possible


How did environmentalists and proponents of waste-to-energy come together to make the Spittelau project possible?

 To go back a little bit in to history, the Spittelau waste-to-energy plant was built for district heating supply and to address the waste disposal issue. So, it was a combined waste-to-energy plant.

During the time of its construction, people suddenly became aware that there is a problem of dioxins emissions, and it became a very big discussion about accepting or not accepting waste incineration. The general public had some understanding of waste incineration because they sometimes did it at home in their backyards.

In addition to this, waste-to-energy also became a political issue. One party was ruling Vienna and four opposition parties used this chance to challenge then existing Mayor accusing that it was negligent, it was a high risk, and that its unacceptable. Then of course, there were economic interests of landfill owners in the background, who would have liked to rather close down the waste-to-energy business to bring the waste to the landfills.

So, there was a very intense discussion and interestingly, in the published opinion, it looked like most people were against waste-to-energy. However, during the big discussions and disputes, environmentally competent people showed that the facts are for waste-to-energy through a thorough analysis. But, the public acceptance was still at stake, and so the Mayor – he was a very wise person – asked Friedensreich Hundertwasser, who was a very well known “green person” and an artist if he could do something about the appearance of the Spittelau plant. Then, Friedensreich Hundertwasser took a whole year to discuss and check his spirit and his conscience about whether he would do that, to make the plant look friendly, beautiful, and pleasing. He decided to do it and he was called a betrayer by some of the fundamentalists from the Green Party. He wrote a long letter at the end explaining why he decided that we needed waste-to-energy. This is available in the White Book on Waste-to-Energy in Austria.

Interestingly, a qualified public opinion poll was then conducted because there was some suspicion that the published opinion was not reflecting the public’s opinion. The interesting result was that almost 50% were in favor of the Spittelau waste-to-energy plant. About 47% or so, had no opinion. They did not care because the waste was taken care of and they did not see a problem. And about 3% were actually opposing. But, they made so much noise that they projected an impression that the public opinion was against waste-to-energy.


White Book: Waste-to-Energy in Austria, Figures, Data and Facts – Austrian Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management (Link to PDF)

Article and Comments Section: Waste-to-energy technology is cleaner and safer than generally believed – Shawn Otto (On Minnesota Post) (Comments Section on Ensia)

Report: Recycling and Waste-to-Energy: Are They Compatible? – Eileen Berenyi (Link to PDF)



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