Integrated Waste Management and Marine Litter Prevention in the Western Balkans

Project description

Title: Integrated Waste Management and Marine Litter Prevention in the Western Balkans
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro
Lead executing agency: Ministry of Tourism and Environment (Albania); Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Relations of Bosnia and Herzegovina (at Bosnia and Herzegovina state level) and Federal Ministry of Environment and Tourism (for the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina); Ministry of Sustainable Development and Tourism (Montenegro)
Overall term: 2018 to 2022


Protecting waterways and the Adriatic Sea from waste leakage represents a regional challenge for south-eastern Europe. Increasing volumes of waste in rivers, lakes and seas pose a danger to ecosystems, biodiversity, tourism and fishery as well as to people’s livelihoods and health.

By far the largest share of marine litter is generated on land and transported to the sea via waterways. This is mainly due to the low rates of waste collected in south-eastern Europe. Large quantities of waste end up in unsecured landfills that are often located on rivers or lakes. Waste also enters water resources via drainage and wastewater systems. Direct littering of coastlines also contributes to waste levels in the Adriatic Sea.

The pollution of the Mediterranean Sea through inadequate waste management is increasingly receiving public attention in the western Balkans now, too, such that the issue is playing a growing role in policy-making, both in the individual countries and across borders. In view of the international reach, other stakeholders are also continuously expanding their activities in this field. These include the European Union (EU), the United Nations Environment Programme – Mediterranean Action Plan (UNEP-MAP) and cooperation arrangements with countries neighbouring the EU as well as Italy and Croatia. To date, many of these activities have focused on monitoring and documenting beach litter and marine pollution. There is little reliable information on where on land which waste volumes are generated, where exactly the waste originates and which pathways it takes to ultimately end up in the waters. Such knowledge could be used to reduce the massive influx of waste into the waters in a targeted manner.


Local and national stakeholders in waste and recycling management in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro are identifying the causes and effects of water pollution. They are reducing the amounts of waste that enter the Mediterranean Sea and contributory rivers.


The Integrated Waste Management and Marine Litter Prevention in the Western Balkans project operates in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro, implementing measures in selected areas along the Adriatic Sea such as estuaries. The focus of implementation is on regional cooperation and knowledge sharing between national institutions, communities and companies. The aim is to conserve natural and economic resources. At a regional level, the project also seeks to establish a common understanding of the issue and associated action plans. A learning and exchange platform enables skills to be built up across national boundaries. At a national level, the project supports legislative processes to reduce marine litter, with a particular focus on plastics. At the same time, implementation and monitoring structures will be strengthened. The ability to estimate economic follow-on costs and to set priorities for the respective country plays an important part in political debates. At a local level, the project aims to put into practice measures to reduce the leakage of plastics into the Mediterranean Sea. Partner communities and organisations in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro receive support in the form of the requisite equipment (such as containers for collecting recycling materials separately), which helps to improve the collection of recycling materials and waste.


  • One current contribution in Albania is the development of a legislative proposal to prohibit all plastic bags and an impact assessment with the aim of evolving the legal system in line with EU law.
  • Measures for litter prevention PR work have been implemented in a national campaign in cooperation with another project in Albania and reached a broad section of the public. The project has also supported a ‘clearing and greening’ campaign by the Albanian Ministry of Environment. 
  • Regional exchange between Mediterranean coastal states was encouraged through participation in events within the UNEP-MAP process.
  • Representatives of partner communities and ministries in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro have undertaken study trips to familiarise them with the possibilities of a state-of-the-art closed-loop or circular economy.
  • Partners have been encouraged to develop cross-institutional ideas to prevent litter accumulating in bodies of water, which will be implemented with support from the project in a subsequent step.
  • Training for students as part of a summer school: raising awareness and conveying basic knowledge about the marine litter phenomenon.