Harnessing the power of green procurement to help business and public institutions phase out single-use plastic products in the Adriatic Region

Monday 18 December 2023

  • Plastic bottles and caps, food containers, bags, packets, and wrappers, as well as cans are among the top 10 single-use plastic products most commonly found during clean-ups along the coasts of Albania, Montenegro and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
  • These items are largely used by hotels, restaurants, cafes, and bars as they are cheap, convenient, functional, and demanded by customers. They are also purchased by Municipalities for catering services, vending machines, and when organising large public events. 
  • 1 every 3 single-use plastic packaging ends up in our seas and oceans, where they can last centuries.
  • Over 200 million tourists visit the Mediterranean Sea every year, generating 40% more marine litter during the summer!
  • Plastic pollution impairs our health, our economies and our societies. 
  • By stimulating the demand for more sustainable solutions, Green Procurement can drive the adoption of ecologically responsible business practices. When applied to the public sector, Green Procurement is a powerful market force that can help improve the environmental performance of goods, services and works purchased and encourage companies to invest in sustainable products and services.

In 2023, MedWaves partnered with three organisations in Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Albania to harness the power of Green Procurement and help local businesses and public institutions reduce their dependency from single-use plastic products.

A Low Plastic Zone (LPZ) initiative kicked off in July 2023 as a joint effort of MedWaves and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH to help businesses in the Hotel, Restaurant and Café (HORECA) sector phase out single-use plastics within their organisations. MedWaves partnered with the Spanish Foundation Save the Med (STM) and Zero Waste Montenegro (ZWM) to co-develop the tools needed to standardise the approach of the LPZ initiative. 

The initiative was piloted in three Municipalities – Kotor in Montenegro, Himara in Albania, and Mostar in Bosnia-Herzegovina – which are important tourist destinations and large contributors to marine plastic pollution. 

More than 200 businesses among cafes, bars, hotels, and restaurants were contacted by the staff of GreenHome in Montenegro, Milieukontakt in Albania and CENER21 in Bosnia-Herzegovina. One quarter of these businesses officially committed to reduce the use of certain single-use plastic products (mainly plastic straws, food and beverage packaging, and water bottles).

Participating businesses were audited twice: the first audit allowed to inform and educate business owners and staff on the key role they play in addressing plastic pollution and in making circularity in the use of plastics a reality. Businesses can indeed reduce the demand for single-use plastics, discourage non-essential use, and promote reusable and truly sustainable alternatives, while attracting new ‘green customers’, enhancing customer loyalty through for example new reusable refill models, promoting their own brand by using for example bespoke reusable containers and cups, or simply cutting costs by eliminating problematic and unnecessary plastics, such as plastic straws. “Working to become Low Plastic Zone ” stickers were provided to the participating businesses to display in their premises and inform their suppliers and customers about their engagements. 

The LPZ initiative videos: 

Following the summer, a second audit assessed progress at business level, while a public perception analysis showed that customers (both local citizens and tourists) in the three countries tend to be environmentally conscious and actively support businesses that commit to eliminating single-use plastic products and introducing sustainable alternatives. 

In the meantime, the staff responsible for public procurement within the pilot Municipalities of Kotor, Himara, and Mostar were trained on how to leverage Green Public Procurement (GPP) to reduce the use of single use plastic products for catering services, vending machine, and the organisation/licencing of large public events. Participants discussed the role Municipalities can play in addressing plastic pollution through GPP and shared major constraints, risks, and challenges in mainstreaming green criteria in the current procurement procedures, while learning from successful case studies. Lists of green criteria were produced  and roadmaps outlined to guide Municipalities in integrating these criteria in future procurement processes. 


The 1-year project was completed in November. Its success rests on the constructive partnership between MedWaves, GIZ, Zero Waste Montenegro, and the Spanish Foundation Save the Med, and the enthusiastic work of the local staff of CENER 21, Green Home, and Milieukontakt Albania. 

This pilot project paves the way for further developments in the three countries aimed at further the phasing out of single use plastics as the most important step to address plastic pollution in the Adriatic Sea. 


In the past few years, the Spanish Foundation Save the Med has been successfully implementing a Plastic Free Certification program targeting HORECA businesses in the Balearic Islands. The Plastic Free Balearics program offers businesses a self-assessment tool to assess their consumption of single use plastic products and to suggest alternative solutions with lower environmental impacts. To ensure that the alternative solutions are truly better for the environment than the original single use plastics, the Plastic Free Balearics team developed a Honest Alternatives to Plastic Index (H.A.P.I.) that compares the environmental impact of each single-use plastic product to all alternative solutions available on the local market. The original self-assessment tool was adapted to the local context of the three project countries by cross analysing existing legal frameworks and waste management systems, as well as by identifying all sustainable alternative solutions to each target single-use plastic products available in the country. The HAPI CHECK is today a user-friendly and dynamic online web application tailored to businesses in the hospitality sector. 

The HORECA guide to Zero Waste

Zero Waste Montenegro (ZWM) contributed to the project by updating, aligning, and adapting the first edition of the “HORECA Guide to Zero Waste”. The guide helps businesses phase out single-use plastics by providing examples of alternative solutions, with price range and contact details of local suppliers. It has proved instrumental in accompanying hotels, cafes, bars, and restaurants in identifying the best alternatives to single-use plastics for their business.