Interview of Alexandra Aubertin, founder of ZeroWaste Montenegro

In 2018, BeMed gave us the amazing opportunity to work on our first financed project and assist us to grow our capacity as newly-founded NGO. The goal of the project was to drastically reduce the creation of single-use plastic bags in Montenegro and to raise awareness about the dangers of single-use plastic items overconsumption. Our project was quite ambitious, and not taking sufficiently into consideration the total lack of support we would get from large distributors/supermarket chains to distribute – free of charge – the bags we were planning to make and made, which ended up costing a little more than planned as made locally and of high quality material. We have been through countless issues in the implementation of this project and we have learned a lot about our mistakes and what we could have done differently from the start.

So almost 2 years later, where are we with our project? We are pleased to say that we have noticed a sensible change in the use of reusable bags in Montenegro through the project period. It is difficult to estimate accurately the real influence of our project on this result but being one of the very few NGO in Montenegro campaigning for the ban of plastic bags and the use of reusable bags. Of course, there are still unfortunately millions of single-use plastic bags being used every year in Montenegro, but the first change – which is the creation of awareness – is now there.

BeMed is giving us the opportunity to continue our project, this time with a different approach, to achieve our main objective: making reusable bags popular in Montenegro to ensure less single-use plastic bags are being used. How do we plan to achieve that? We will approach again supermarkets, but this time to convince them to embark on the reusable bags journey with our support –with a new approach. Assist them in the logistics of getting light foldable R-PET bags at around 1 euro piece – so they can make a slight profit while still selling them at an affordable price, get the design of the bags made for them and do the communication campaign around their CSR. This way, we will be able to share our expertise with the supermarkets and facilitate for them this transition to reusable, but we will leave them the handling the distribution themselves (making it sustainable in the long-term), bags will be accessible (supermarkets are all around the country) and affordable (price should remain under 1.5 euros maximum). We can’t wait to make this happen, stay tuned for an update! And if you plan to implement a similar project in your country, feel free to reach out so we can share our lessons learned with you!

Zero Waste Montenegro team