Waste management and the circular economy

Project description

Title: Municipal waste and wastewater management in Serbia (IMPACT)
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: Serbia
Lead executing agency: Ministry of Agriculture and Environmental Protection
Overall term: 2015 to 2017


Serbia’s waste management is inadequate, particularly in rural areas. Collection is poorly organised, landfill is not subject to controls. By EU comparison, organic waste as a proportion of total residual waste is high and the recycling rate is very low. As yet, the population shows little awareness of environmental issues.

Only 10 per cent of wastewater is treated. In most municipalities there is no infrastructure for sewerage and wastewater treatment. Investment is urgently needed in this area.

The collection of recyclable materials from household waste is often undertaken by informal waste collectors, mostly Roma people. However, if recycling is to be carried out professionally, greater efficiency and appropriate formalisation of this activity are essential. Municipalities must additionally ensure that disadvantaged groups do not lose their source of income as a consequence of the creation of modern waste management systems.

In December 2015, the European Commission adopted a Circular Economy Package. This promotes the recycling, repair, reconditioning, reprocessing and re-use of recyclable materials and products. The aim is to ensure that all resources are managed more efficiently over their full lifecycle. This fosters economic growth and generates new jobs.

Serbia is seeking EU membership and is currently working to align its legislation with that of the EU. Modernisation of waste management by joining the transition towards a circular economy is a declared political objective.


Conditions for introducing circular economy systems into waste and wastewater management are improved at national and municipal level.



The project supports the Ministry of Agriculture and Environmental Protection, the Ministry of Economy, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Serbia, the Provincial Secretariat for Urban Planning, Construction and Environmental Protection and the Standing Conference of Towns and Municipalities (SCTM). The project’s partners include the Serbian Solid Waste Association (SeSWA) and the Serbian Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA); it also cooperates with non-governmental organisations in the informal sector and private recycling companies.

The five pilot municipalities Aleksandrovac, Bela Crkva, Krupanj, Kursumlija and Svilajnac and the region of Rasina are assisted with the development of planning and administrative capacities for integrated waste and wastewater management services.

The project comprises four areas of activity:

  1. development of efficient cooperation between the municipalities and improved public services at municipal level for waste and wastewater;
  2. support for municipalities with preparing small and medium-scale investments in recycling projects;
  3. inclusion of minorities and informal stakeholders in the regulated waste management system;
  4. raising of environmental awareness and setting up of support mechanisms for a circular economy.


With project support, the national government and local authorities now work together in a more coordinated and efficient manner.

The management skills of decision-makers in local authorities and public utilities at municipal level have improved overall, as has waste-specific expertise in planning, implementation and optimisation.

The pilot municipalities are aware of the volume and composition of waste.

An intermunicipal working group was set up in the region of Rasina. The group is developing a joint waste management programme.

Public utilities in the pilot municipalities are recording increased waste collection and recycling rates and a higher level of collection efficiency, meaning fewer unpaid bills by users. In addition, the partners are currently implementing projects for separate recyclable waste collection and the creation of recycling centres. The transport of hazardous waste is now subject to improved control thanks to the introduction of an electronic platform.

The interest and awareness of all stakeholders, including the population, to play a part in measures to improve solid waste and wastewater management in the municipalities have increased.