* Environmentalists want waste import law scrapped
* Prime minister says legislation will make Albania cleaner
By Benet Koleka
TIRANA, Oct 1 Several thousand Albanians
protested in the capital on Saturday to demand Prime Minister
Edi Rama scrap a law allowing waste imports for recycling that
has revived fears the country could become Europe's refuse dump.
Rama angered environmentalists last week by reinstating the
legislation in a bid to prop up the country's flagging recycling
industry just three years after he repealed a similar law
proposed by the previous government soon after coming to power.
Environmental activists say the law will let wealthy
neighbouring countries such as Italy send dangerous and
polluting waste to be destroyed in Albania, one of Europe's
Walking behind a poster saying "Enough with our own
garbage", protesters waved red cards at Rama's office and threw
black rubbish sacks with his photo printed on them. Others had
sprayed the names of Rama and other government ministers on bins
throughout the capital, Tirana.
"We want the law scrapped because it has devious loopholes
that allow imports of waste, such as to generate electricity
from burning garbage," Lavdosh Ferruni, an environmentalist told
Reuters. "This inevitably leads to more pollution."
Another protester accused Rama of betraying his own vision
of a "renaissance" for Albania.
Rama has defended the law, which passed parliament with a
wafer-thin majority, stressing that imported waste of plastic,
paper and wood will be recycled and that incineration and
landfill are banned. He says only recycling plants can get
licences to import waste and customs will check all shipments.
"Let me tell every citizen among the protesters who thinks
he wants Albania to be cleaner than I do: You're wrong. The law
serves your goal exactly," Rama said on Twitter.
Successive post-Communist governments have tried to prop up
the recycling industry over the past 25 years and many Albanians
fear lax controls will let in dangerous waste in a country
plagued by corruption and poor infrastructure.
Three years ago, widespread discontent forced Rama to back
down on his promise to the United States to allow Syria's
chemical weapons arsenal to be dismantled in Albania.
The new law comes as the recycling industry complains it
cannot survive unless it imports though it now recycles 17
percent of waste in the country, up from 10 percent in 2013,
according to Rama.
(Editing by Thomas Escritt and Helen Popper)