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

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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 health and livelihoods.

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 rate of waste collection 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. 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. 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 have identified the causes and effects of water pollution, and  are reducing the amounts of waste that enter the Mediterranean Sea and contributory rivers.


The 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, municipalities and companies. The aim is to conserve natural and economic resources. At the 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 the 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 the local level, the project aims to put into practice measures to reduce the flow of plastics into the Mediterranean Sea. Partner municipalities and organisations in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro receive support in the form of the requisite equipment such as containers for the separate collection of recyclables, which helps to improve the collection of recyclable materials and waste.

  • Several hundred containers and bins of different designs for the collection of recyclables and waste, trucks for the collection and handling of recyclables and different types of waste, and a boat for the monitoring of cross-border coastal areas and estuaries have been procured in five partner municipalities to reduce and prevent marine litter throughout the three countries
  • By procuring spare parts the project provided for the refurbishment of waste management infrastructure. This enabled the extension of regular waste management services to areas that have not been serviced so far.
  • Partner municipalities are supported in the planning and implementation of measures for the smart use of the purchased equipment, in an effort to achieve integrated management and prevention of waste. By signing the joint “Declaration of Ulcinj on the Prevention of Marine Litter” and a Memorandum of Understanding, the five municipalities commit themselves to pursue specific reduction targets for marine litter.
  • The project facilitated contracts for the recycling of separately collected recyclables, especially in areas with existing efforts to establish a legal framework for extended producer responsibility for plastic packaging.
  • During a study tour to Germany, participants of line ministries and municipalities from the three partner countries familiarised themselves in detail with modern integrated waste management practice.
  • A regulatory framework for the reduction and ban of single use plastic items is being promoted.