Albania’s Recycling Rate Continues to Fall as Government Pushes Landfills and Incinerators

Albanians created 1.04 million tons of urban waste during 2020, a decrease of 3.5% compared with the previous year.

While this is a positive, unfortunately, the way it’s managed remains problematic. 

Only 86.9% of the population are covered by municipal waste management, which decreased in 2020 compared to the previous year. Those without municipal waste services are more likely to dispose of it in rivers, the countryside, and thorough burning it themselves, which leads to pollution issues and risk of wildfires.

80.2% of all urban waste is deposited into landfills. This is an increase of 2.3 percentage points from 2019. The burning of waste for energy purposes accounts for just 1.1%, despite the government paying expensive concessions for waste incinerators. Less waste has been being burned since the concessions started than in 2017 and 2018.

The recycling rate is at its lowest in three years, falling to just 18.1%.

In terms of unmanaged waste relating to the total amount of waste generated, it increased by 1.1% in 2020. The amount of managed versus unmanaged waste has increased significantly over the last few years, but 2020 saw the first decrease since 2015.

While many people and organisations are keen to recycle waste in Albania, the government isn’t interested. 

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.

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“Some recycling companies have fled Albania; they have gone to Africa. We all thought of running away. Neighbouring countries have offered exciting proposals-  a free building, no taxes for five years, facilities etc. Across Europe, the recycling industry is being subsidised, but we are subsidising incineration instead.”

Balteza added that the government should be focussing on reusing and recycling like everywhere else in the world and Europe, and in no way 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.

The Rama government even cancelled a concession to construct and operate a state recycling plant shortly after coming to power.