From: Exit Staff
Albania’s Waste Incinerators, State Capture, and the Bankruptcy of the Recycling Industry

Aleksandra Bogdani, a journalist with the BIRN network, said that the three incinerator concessions are a pure case of state capture. This is because the private interests of a group of politically connected people are influencing public decision-making to the tune of hundreds of millions of euros.

Speaking on the show ‘With a few words’ with Neritan Sejamini, Bogdani, who has previously researched the companies benefiting from the concessions of incinerators in Tirana, Elbasan and Fier, explained that behind the three companies, there is the same person:

“Behind all three companies stands Mirel Mërtiri, a person with political connections both left and right and who has a well-defined friendship with Minister Arben Ahmetaj.”

She said the incinerator case clearly shows the capture of the state:

“In this case, we have synchronization of a multitude of institutions to award contracts worth hundreds of millions of euros, without competition without procedures, without calculating costs, a handful of people creating a monopoly practically.

There is a lot of room for investigation here because there are several extra-legal actions that raise suspicions of clientelism, of conflict of interest. The capture of the state would be the least to say. “

Bogdani stressed that despite all the suspicions, ‘justice has been unable to pursue money in this case when there are big names in politics behind it. In this case, the prosecution and the courts have done nothing to uncover this whole chain of violations in these concession contracts. ‘

Head of the Association of Recyclers Bardhyl Balteza said that the recycling industry is going bankrupt due to 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. Neighbouring 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 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 as to its basically unviable.

According to INSTAT, 80% of waste goes into landfill at the moment and only 18.7% is recycled. Less than 1% is incinerated.