Waste management development in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Waste management development Bosnia and Herzegovina

Photo: Michael Schwarzenberger from Pixabay


February 12, 2021





February 12, 2021




Author: Ana Terzić, Senior Associate at CMS Bosnia and Herzegovina

This article aims to give a general overview of waste management development in Bosnia and Herzegovina, its reform in the recent past and investment opportunities that arise from the complexity of the country.

Bosnia and Herzegovina consists of two entities: Federation of BiH (FBiH) and Republika Srpska (RS). Brčko District (BD) is a third separate administrative unit under exclusive sovereignty of the state.

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, around 75% of the population is covered by a waste collection service, with coverage more or less complete in larger cities but dropping to very low levels in rural areas.

The entities play an important role in waste management development in BiH

Waste management development and implementation of the policies is the responsibility of the entities (FBiH and RS) and BD. Due to this, three institutions are responsible for developing and implementing waste management policy in Bosnia and Herzegovina:

  • The Ministry of Environment and Tourism of the Federation of BiH (FBiH),
  • The Ministry of Physical Planning and Civil Engineering and Ecology of Republic of Srpska,
  • The Department for Physical Planning and Proprietary Affairs of the Government of Brčko District.

The waste management regulation in BiH is regulated by three main entity laws and their bylaws:

  • The Law on Waste Management in the RS (Official Gazette RS 113/13 and 106/15),
  • The Law on Waste Management in the FBiH (Official Gazette FBiH 33/03, 72/09),
  • The Law on Waste Management in BD (Official Gazette BD 72/09, 25/04, 1/05, 19/07, 2/08 and 9/09).

The EU has recognized BiH as a potential candidate country for accession. The obligations to be fulfilled to achieve this include, inter alia, harmonization with (environmental) EU Directives. Therefore, the entities in BiH (RS and FBiH) and Brčko District have adopted waste management strategies to improve and develop the waste management situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The main strategic and planning documents are the Environmental Protection Strategy of FBiH for the period 2008 to 2018, the Waste Management Strategy of FBiH and Federal Waste Management Plan 2012 to 2017 of FBIH.

The FBiH is currently in the process of developing a new Environmental Protection Strategy for FBiH for the next planning period of 10 years and a new Federal Waste Management Plan to replace the one that expired in 2017. Also, in FBiH, the cantons develop their own strategic documents on waste management as part of their legal obligations arising from the Law on Waste Management.

  • Solid Waste Management Strategy 2017 to 2026 (RS),
  • Environmental Protection Strategy for the period 2016 to 2026 (BD).

 Beginning of reform and the current situation

The waste management reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina started with the National Solid Waste Management Strategy in the year 2000 as part of the EU Phare Programme. The Phare Programme is one of the three pre-accession instruments financed by the European Union to assist the applicant countries of Central and Eastern Europe in their preparations for joining the European Union.

The National Solid Waste Management Strategy started the regionalisation concept in BiH, which later became part of the laws regulating waste management in the entities and BD. The regionalisation concept in BiH prescribed that the country requires 16 sanitary landfills.

There are several active regional sanitary landfills in BiH: Smiljevići Sarajevo; Ramići Banja Luka; Brijesnica Bijeljina; Mošćanica Zenica; Uborak Mostar; Crni vrh Zvornik; Eko-sep Živinice (still under construction) and Kurevo Prijedor (still under construction). However, the number of non-compliant municipal landfills and illegal dumpsites is still high. Also, the country is lacking facilities to dispose of special waste categories, which usually end up at municipal landfills threatening human health and the environment. Current recycling rates are far lower than those achieved in other European countries. The high number of illegal dumpsites, low recycling rates, and the number of non-compliant municipal landfills threatens the environment and climate change through pollution and human health in general.

According to the 2018 reports by the Agency of Statistics of BiH, the waste management situation is described by the following indicators:

  • Estimated quantity of municipal waste generated in 2018: 1,243,973 tons, i.e. 355 kg per capita annually, or 0.97 kg per capita per day.
  • In 2018, 920,540 tons of municipal solid waste was collected, which is 0.7% more than the previous year.
  • In the total amount of collected waste, mixed municipal waste accounts for 90.9%, separately collected waste 4.0%, waste from gardens and parks 3.1% and packaging waste 2.0%.
  • In 2018, 957,494 tons of waste was disposed at landfills, which is 0.7% more than the previous year.

Progress and problems in the sector

The solid waste management sector in BiH has made great strides in recent years. First, the concept of regional waste disposal has been developed in BiH and is currently being implemented. Also, in addition to the legislation, which has been significantly improved in the recent past in both entities, certain funds have been invested in the appropriate infrastructure to establish and develop an integrated waste management system.

Despite this progress, significant problems remain in the sector:

  • Prices of household services are not sufficient to cover the costs of waste collection;
  • Low private sector interest because of the high financial risk due to non-payment of households to waste collection companies;
  • There is no separation, recycling or treatment of waste (with some minor exceptions);
  • Municipalities are responsible for implementing municipal waste management policies, but lack the funds to invest, raise public awareness and build capacity to improve waste management;
  • Institutional incapacity at national and local level as well as lack of cooperation at the entity and local levels; and
  • Lack of reliable data due to highly complex government structure.

Investment opportunities and the future of waste management development in BiH

The entity strategies also address the financial aspect in the waste management system and envisage two possible sources of funding: public and private.

Public sources of financing according to the strategies are, in addition to the entity bodies, inter alia, loans from banks and international financial institutions.

Private sources of financing are private investments in waste collection and recycling equipment (bins, containers, vehicles, etc.), private investments in facilities for the treatment of separately collected waste for recycling or special treatments (composting plants, sorting plants, paper production plants, plastics, glass, plants for the treatment of special types of waste), private investment in equipment and facilities for transport and treatment etc.

BiH has certain aspirations for the future of waste management and has expressed a political commitment to join the EU. BiH will gradually have to meet high environmental and sectoral targets and must develop more advanced initiatives related to separate collection and treatment, within the EU environmental framework.

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