From: Alice Taylor
Albanian Prime Minister Calls for Stop to Littering Ahead of Tourist Season

Prime Minister Edi Rama said Albania is in for a bumper tourism season and the army have been called in to clean the coast in preparation.

After two years of uncertainty, marred by the COVID-19 pandemic, Albanian tourism businesses are hopeful that 2022 will give them an opportunity to recoup losses.

Rama visited touristic areas on Tuesday and warned that the high number of tourists this year, will bring additional waste with them.

He added that the army was brought in to clean waste along some coastal areas, including that caused by the demolition of illegal constructions. After this phase, however, he said it is up to the public to keep it clean.

“It will be the cleanest season because of the extraordinary work that is done daily, but also because of financial instruments that come to the aid of coastal municipalities that live in a season where the population multiplies. If the municipalities are clean, it is up to people not to pollute,” he said.

Rama added, “The first element of patriotism is not to pollute our common home.”

He continued that with more tourists comes challenges with higher levels of consumption, and therefore more rubbish that needs to be disposed of.

Tourism and environment Minister Mirela Kumbaro said that 61 municipalities have budgeted additional funds for waste management.

“But the biggest job we have to do is change mentalities. This is the challenge of this mandate,” she said.

But where to dispose of waste?

Some may argue however that the biggest challenge is what to do with waste in Albania. In many areas, waste bins are lacking and rubbish bins that collect communal residential waste are left overflowing for days at a time. Furthermore, only 86% of the population is served by municipal waste management services.

In August last year, trash lined the streets of popular tourist resort Gjiri Lalzit as the Municipality of Durres failed to collect rubbish for months. Residents told Exit that the Municipality of Durres hasn’t collected waste in the area for several months. Instead, they have been forced to pay for private waste collection, for diggers to bury to the waste, or to incinerate it themselves.

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Currently, there are no state supported recycling facilities in Albania. All waste is either dumped by citizens, collected by the municipalities and put into landfil, while a small amount is incinerated.

In 2020, 1.04 million tonnes of waste was created and over 80% was deposited into landfills. This number is increasing based on historical data, rather than decreasing. Waste burned in incinerators and turned into energy accounted for just 1.1% with the number falling from 2018.

Just 18% of waste was recycled in 2020, a decrease on the previous year while unmanaged waste levels increased.

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.

Tourism on the rise

But with the number of tourists already looking promising for 2022, a solution for waste will need to be found. Figures from March show that the number of visitors to Albania increased by over 53% when compared to the same month in 2021. 

Additionally, the number of nights spent in accommodation by residents increased by 85% and non residents by 2.3 times.

There are however, concerns that the fallout from the Ukraine war could have an impact on the sector. 

According to the National Statistics Institute, in 2021, Albania received some 363,483 tourists from Eastern Europe. During its peak in 2019, that number was 393,368. Poland, Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus account for most visitors from the region.

Nevilla Dudaj from the Adriatik Hotel in Durres said that on a macro level the situation will be felt amongst many businesses.

“There used to be 130,000 people coming via charter flights from April- among the first tourists of the season. This has completely stopped this year, and it is a huge problem for the tourism and hotels that would work with Ukrainian clientele.”

She said that increase in oil prices and other products has also been reflected in other markets that will struggle to find money to travel.

“The next market is Polish who start coming mid-may. This was the situation before, but this year, the situation is different, and they are not coming in the same figures as they used to,” Dudaj said, adding that this is reflected in clientele and the number of reservations.

But in terms of her hotel, Dudaj said they are focussing on the Western market such as the UK, US and Nordics.

“We experienced a slight change in reservations but we expect to be fully booked for the summer. This season looks optimistic as especially Americans want to spend time in Europe. We are optimistic,” she said.

Albanians may also struggle in funding domestic stays as rising inflation, fuel costs, and the prices of basic food items risks pricing them off their own beaches.