Sanela Veljkovski, Project Manager, Open Regional Funds For South East Europe - Modernisation Of Municipal Services, Deutsche Gesellschaft Für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH

The Bell Tolls For Glass Recycling

In an effort to improve the percentage of glass packaging waste that’s collected and recycled, German development cooperation has joined forces with private companies from the Western Balkans to implement the project ‘Enabling a Cost-Effective Glass Recycling Value Chain in the Western Balkans’

Working through its development partnership mechanism, GIZ is combining its efforts with those of private companies, with the aim of responding jointly to the greatest challenges to the realising of the Sustainable Development Goals.

What is the current situation in the field of glass packaging waste management in the Western Balkans?

Environmental protection concerns are similar in all Western Balkan countries and joint efforts – through cooperation and exchanges of best practices – are not only useful, but rather essential.

As a type of packaging waste, which is one the fastest growing forms of waste worldwide, glass packaging represents one of the few materials that are 100% recyclable and can be subjected to an infinite number of recycling circuits. Unfortunately, the low quantities of glass collected and insufficient management of glass waste recycling have resulted in most used glass packaging ending up in landfill sites or illegal dumps, where it takes more than 5,000 years to decompose. As for the waste sector generally, the main shortcomings for glass waste management lie in the infrastructure enabling collection and the development of sustainable solutions.

Tell us something about your Project “Enabling a Cost-Effective Glass Recycling Value Chain in the Western Balkans”. Why this project is so important?

The project is built on a strong partnership between GIZ and packaging waste management operators SEKOPAK, with the support of Molson Coors’ Apatin Brewery from Serbia, EKOPAK from Bosnia-Herzegovina and PAKOMAK from North Macedonia.

Serbia’s NALED (National Alliance for Local Economic Development), North Macedonia’s ZELS (Association of the Units of Local Self-Government) and Bosnia-Herzegovina’s regional development agency REDAH contribute to this partnership – as civil society organisations – with their capacities and experiences. All of the institutions included are aiming to realise the common result of establishing the preconditions for the cost-effective treatment and recycling of glass waste in the Western Balkan region.

The main shortcomings for glass waste management lie in the infrastructure enabling collection and the development of sustainable solutions

What are the results to date of the joint investment, advisory support and awareness-raising measures to improve rates of glass waste collection?

During 2021, more than 1,000 glass collection containers have been installed in 14 pilot cities and municipalities throughout North Macedonia, Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. These waste collection containers, named Bells, have been introduced in Bitola, Štip, Gevgelia, Ilinden, Skopje, Tetovo, Niš, Sombor, Varvarin, Kragujevac, Ilidža, Novi Travnik, Bihać and Konjic. The joint investment, advisory support and awareness-raising measures to improve collection of glass waste have met with positive reactions among the citizens of these communities and resulted in glass collection rates having already increased by over 20%.

How does the recent inclusion of the City of Belgrade in the project contribute to improving its results?

Being aware of the importance of green projects to citizens, and their environment and living conditions, we would like to highlight the fact that the City of Belgrade officially joined our Project recently. As the region’s biggest city, Belgrade has – according to all factors – very specific elements for the organisation of primary separation, which can result in us having both a bigger impact and a new learning experience.

Building upon this investment in collection infrastructure and lessons learned, the Project will prepare municipal models to establish adequate glass recycling systems that can be further disseminated to other municipalities in Serbia and around the region.

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