The Mayor of Fier Armando Subashi has announced that on 30 August, the Fier incinerator will commence operations.
The waste disposal agreement, a public-private partnership with Integrated Technology Services, was signed in 2016. It provides for the storage and incineration of waste in the Fier region. The deal was complemented by two other such agreements with the same company in Elbasan and Tirana.
The three incinerators were created from no demand, no requirement, and no official proposal. Rather, a newly established company with no capital or experience in anything, much less waste disposal, put themselves forward for the projects.
The dubious procedure was further exacerbated by the terms of the contracts that favored the companies to the detriment of the state. For example, the government was bound to start paying the concessionaire before the construction of the incinerators was completed. They were also required to compensate the concessionaire at any time they do not have waste to burn.
This meant that for the five years it’s taken for the Fier incinerator to become operational, the State has been paying the concessionaire for each day of non-activity.
It’s the same story in Tirana, where the incinerator is still not operational, yet the state pays a daily rate to the concessionaire.
In Elbasan, the incinerator is completed but only operated from time to time because they claim there isn’t enough waste to burn. This means they get paid by the government for each day there is no waste to burn.
In terms of the Fier incinerator, between 2016 and 2020, the incinerator received some EUR 22 million from the government. The total price of the project is EUR 27 million. This means that the concessionaire has received 82% of the contract cost before even finishing construction, or burning any waste.
In Tirana and Elbasan too, millions have been paid out for incinerators that are not completed, and/or not operational.
As of June 2020, the three incinerators had cost Albanian taxpayers some EUR 72 million, while not providing any services.
In November 2020, a contract with the same company was signed for the fourth incinerator in Vlora.
Head of the Association of Recyclers Bardhyl Balteza said that the recycling industry is going bankrupt due to a lack of support from the government. He said that currently, the industry operates with only 15-30% capacity and will force recycling companies to leave the country.
“Some recycling companies have fled Albania, they have gone to Africa. We all thought of running away. Neighboring countries have offered very interesting proposals—a free building, no taxes for five years, facilities, etc. Across Europe, the recycling industry is being subsidized, but we are subsidizing incineration instead.”
Balteza added that the government should be focussing on reusing and recycling like everywhere else in the world and Europe, and in not on incineration, which releases harmful gas into the air. He also said it is more costly than recycling and therefore the practice of building incinerators is questionable as it’s basically unviable.
The EU Delegation in Tirana said that investing in incinerators could delay the implementation of directives and policies required by the EU and make it harder to meet necessary targets.
Answering questions for Exit, they noted that Albania needs to spend more than EUR 500 million to implement a waste management system that is up to EU standards. Investing in incinerators—that is in the lower echelons of the EU waste hierarchy, i.e. not desirable—could harm Albania’s compliance with what is expected of it.
“The 2018-2032 Integrated Waste Management Masterplan of Albania estimates that more than €500 million will be needed to implement an integrated waste management system up to EU standards in Albania. Investing in the lower echelons of the EU waste hierarchy might delay the implementation of the Waste Framework Directive and its policies as well as make it more difficult to reach EU targets on recycling.”
They also noted that the presence of below-standard landfills and dumpsites is an issue.
“Closing of numerous non-compliant landfills and dumpsites remains a challenge. Separate collection of waste streams and economic instruments to promote recycling and reuse and to prevent waste generation remain limited.”
According to INSTAT, 80% of waste goes into landfills at the moment and only 18.7% is recycled. Less than 1% is incinerated.