24 Sep 2019 Story Chemicals & waste

Addressing pharmaceutical waste in Albania

In Albania, dealing with pharmaceutical waste has become a serious concern. Often, this potentially hazardous refuse is burned in open areas or disposed of untreated, which can lead to the contamination of drinking, surface and ground waters, creating a serious health hazard to locals and potentially damaging the environment.

Over the last 20 years, Albania’s government has taken concrete steps to improve its chemicals and waste management, ratifying the Stockholm, Basel and Rotterdam conventions, and signing the Minamata Convention. However, legislation on this issue has to improve, while institutional capacity to implement these conventions remains weak, with a general lack of capability in the country for proper waste management.

To overcome these hurdles, the Chemicals and Waste Management Programme is supporting Albania over the next 20 months on an ambitious project to establish and strengthen the country’s institutional framework and national capacity in managing waste and chemicals. The project will also improve policy and legal structures on waste management in Albania, as well as developing a countrywide coordination mechanism.

The first important step of this project will be the creation of a project management unit to oversee the implementation of key objectives. Among the unit’s first task will be an in-depth analysis of legal gaps and institutional weaknesses. This will allow Albania to prepare and promote legislation to more effectively regulate chemicals and waste management, laying the foundation for the country’s response to this issue long into the future.

Albania will also establish a Pharmaceutical Waste Unit within the National Agency for Medicines and Medical Devices as the lead government body for managing pharmaceutical products and medical devices. This will become a permanent institution, allowing the country’s management of this waste stream to be sustainable beyond the project’s scope.

One of the project’s other goals is to reduce pharmaceutical waste in open fields. By establishing a comprehensive pharmaceutical waste management system, improving resource allocation, and reforming waste handling and disposal, this long-term process will take place throughout the project and sustained after its completion.

Albania currently struggles with a lack of information about the risk improper waste disposal poses to human health and the environment. To solve this issue, the country will begin capacity-building and awareness-raising activities among decision makers, including stakeholders from the private sector, government agencies, non-governmental organizations and academia. Through a series of key workshops and trainings, Albania hopes to increase the technical capacities of everyone from local pharmacists to government health workers and waste operating companies.

As women are particularly at risk for exposure to pharmaceutical waste in Albania, this awareness-raising initiative will have a particular focus on gender. The project will also follow the United Nations Development Programme’s advice on chemicals and gender to provide guidance on mainstreaming gender in areas of waste and chemical management.

These key steps are expected to allow Albania to ratify the Minamata Convention before the end of the project while greatly improving the implementation of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions. More importantly, by having stronger environmental policy, strengthened legislative tools and increased human resource capacity, Albania will be able to not only address the issues facing the country now, but also be well equipped to solve key problems in the long term.


For further information please contact the Special Programme Secretariat at [email protected]