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Results BriefsJune 26, 2023

From Raw Material to Waste and Back — Integrating Circular Economy Principles in Croatia’s Construction Waste Management

Croatia Circular Economy

Construction and demolition waste sector and its footprint in Croatia

The RAS on Circular Economy Approaches in Solid Waste Management assisted Croatia in accelerating the achievement of EU waste targets by developing the first-ever sector-specific Circular Economy Action Plan, and through integration of Circular Economy principles in the current and future National Waste Management Plan (2023-2028).


Croatia produces about 6 million tons of waste or about 1.5 tons per person per year . The country’s Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development (MoESD) and the World Bank partnered on this two-year technical assistance program to support the country's transition to a circular economy (CE) in waste management. The project focused on improving the management of municipal and construction & demolition waste and has led to the first sectoral Action Plan (2023-2027) introducing CE principles in the construction and demolition (C&D) waste sector — a sector with large socio-economic value and material and carbon footprint, especially impacted in 2020 by devastating earthquakes which resulted in a surge of C&D waste. The Project also contributed to the preparation of the new Waste Management Plan of the Republic of Croatia (2023-2028), taking into consideration CE principles.


Croatia has been lagging behind other European Union (EU) member states in transitioning towards a CE. In a circular economy, products and materials are kept in use for as long as possible through strategies which can be summarized as “reuse, reduce and recycle”. This reduces demand for natural resources and minimizes waste, both of which are associated with significant environmental damage and economic cost. However, in 2021, the Croatian economy was only 5.7 percent circular. This means that only 5.7 percent of material resources in Croatia came from recycled waste materials, compared to 11.7 percent across the whole EU. The waste management system relies mainly on landfilling. Most waste comes from the construction sector and households. Despite progress achieved over the past five years, 58 percent of the municipal waste produced in Croatia in 2021 went to one of the country's 80 active landfills. The Government of Croatia is committed to fulfilling the European Union directives in the waste sector, requiring Croatia to reduce landfilling from 58 to 10 percent and increase recycling from 31 to 65 percent by 2035.

The system is as strong as its weakest link. We are all headed in the same direction. The behavior and mentality of the people need to change, but also the regulation; nothing is set in stone. We are on the right path, the Ministry has undertaken a huge work, thank you.
—Sonja Polonijo,
Association of Cities, Member of Circular Economy Committee


The World Bank has been supporting Croatia in improving waste management for more than a decade. Following analytical work Croatia Solid Waste Sector Review - Catching Up and Getting in Front, which provided a comprehensive diagnostic of the waste sector, in September 2020, the World Bank partnered with MoESD to analyze and address key barriers and regulatory bottlenecks in municipal solid waste management to support the country's transition towards CE and meeting the EU waste prevention and recycling targets. This collaboration evolved into a two-year program of Technical Assistance (TA) – Circular Economy Approaches in Solid Waste Management (CERCLE) – which concluded in November 2022.

Under CERCLE, the World Bank provided technical assistance to help Croatia in accelerating the achievement of EU waste targets through integration of CE principles in the current 2017-2022 and future 2023-2028 National Waste Management Plan (NWMP) and by developing the first ever sector specific CE Action Plan for the construction and demolition (C&D) waste sector. The aim was to showcase an effective application of CE principles, targeting waste reduction and—where waste generation cannot be avoided— transforming waste and recovering economic value into high-quality secondary raw materials, incorporated into new products while avoiding negative impacts on the environment and climate.

Notwithstanding the stakeholders commitment to addressing Croatia’s waste management challenges, a stronger enabling policy (e.g. economic instruments, such as ‘landfill tax’), institutional and regulatory framework, and a platform for engagement are required to help the country meet the vision for sustainable waste management aligned with CE principles, especially in recovery and generation of C&D waste as a selected a priority waste stream

The key TA activities included: a review of the current CE and waste policy landscape, a national material flow analysis, the identification of sectors for priority action in Croatia (construction, plastics, food, and textiles), supporting amendment of the current and informing the forthcoming NWMP (2023-2028), as well as communication and capacity building activities. The project focused on improving the management of construction waste, as a selected a priority sector, and led to a proposed five-year Action Plan for introducing CE principles in the C&D waste sector (2023-2027). All deliverables and related outputs produced during the project are available on project subpages on both MoESD (Featured Topics section) and World Bank websites.


The two-year partnership between the Bank and MoESD has delivered notable outcomes:

  • Key stakeholders from the public and private sectors, academia, and civil society have been better informed about the existing challenges, policy gaps, and potential opportunities to make a CE transition in Croatia through the completed diagnostic analysis of the Croatian economy, which aimed to assess the current state of fostering CE in Croatia and prioritize a sector that can benefit from the development of a CE Action Plan.
  • Results generated under this TA informed the revised National Waste Management Plan for the period 2017-2022, adopted by the Government of the Republic of the Croatia on December 30, 2021 (OG 1/2022), and the new National Waste Management Plan for the period 2023-2028, currently under preparation. The results helped to design waste targets, measures, and activities in line with revised EU directives that came into effect in 2018 (The Waste Framework Directive, The Landfill Directive, The Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive, and The Single-Use Plastics Directive). The proposed activities, including investments, and possible sources of funding, are designed to accelerate projects in line with five-tier hierarchy, in which prevention is the best option, followed by reducing, reuse, repurposing, and recycling of waste . This helped to make the evolving waste management policy framework in Croatia more circular and aligned with the latest EU waste policy, but also ensured allocations for the use of EU funds for the programming period, 2021-2027, because preparation and adoption of national waste planning documents in line with EU policy is a precondition for EU funds allocation.
  • The proposed Circular Economy Action Plan (CEAP) for Construction Waste Management provided a roadmap for reducing waste generation and achieving the EU goal of 70 percent construction waste recovery, including recycling and other types of waste usage, and is a key input to National Waste Management Plan (2023-2028), currently under preparation. It also highlights the need to strengthen the market for secondary raw materials and by-products, improve construction waste data collection, and reduce illegal construction waste dumping. The Plan was created through a participatory process in consultation with key stakeholders including the public sector, businesses, academia and civil society.
  • Establishing a CE Committee as an interdisciplinary advisory body to MoESD as part of the TA, was instrumental for improved stakeholder engagement and knowledge sharing and created robust ownership. The Committee provided sectoral guidance on CE, and participated in implementing TA activities, such as capacity building, knowledge exchange study visits, and stakeholder consultations that informed the CE Action Plan for Construction and Demolition Waste. These activities combined (trainings, study visits, in-person and online consultations) reached around 500 key stakeholders.
  • Conducting knowledge exchange and capacity building activities, including webinars on select CE topics, in-person trainings on CE in C&D waste management across the country, and exposure to international good practices/study visits, strengthened CE knowledge and technical capacity among the government and stakeholders.
  • TA also informed the proposed CE Communication Plan #NoTimeToWaste to raise CE awareness and promote behavior change among the general public. A robust public outreach campaign implemented under this TA through traditional and social media developed a website content and included placing media interviews; a blog, infographics and other supporting visuals (see Multimedia), and contributed to strengthened MoESD communication capacities to improve public awareness and educate the Croatian consumers about CE. 

Bank Group Contribution

The total amount of this TA is 1.75 million EUR. It has been co-financed from the European Union’s (EU’s) Cohesion Fund.


The Implementing entity was the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development (MoESD)/ Directorate for Environmental Impact Assessment and Sustainable Waste Management. Other stakeholders included: MoESD’s Institute for Environment and Nature, Environmental Protection and Energy Efficiency Fund, regional and local governments, municipal waste companies, product manufacturers, Croatian Chamber of Economy (HGK), associations for industry, trade, and secondary raw materials collection and processing, Croatian Employers’ Association (HUP), other line ministries such as: the Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Physical Planning, Construction and State Assets, Ministry of Finance; Croatian consumer protection association; relevant national and international NGOs specializing in environmental protection and sustainable development, relevant academic institutions across Croatia, and others.

Looking Ahead

Future work resulting from this RAS could potentially include the development of CEAPs for other priority sectors of the Croatian economy, as well as the integration of CE principles into municipal solid waste (MSW) management in coastal regions.
A robust methodology for designing CEAPs developed under this RAS, can be applied to other sectors. Plastics, a priority sector under this RAS, could be selected for the development of the next sectoral CEAP, given its contribution to marine litter that can lead to adverse impacts on marine ecosystems and the tourism sector – a sector of vital importance to the Croatian economy.
In addition to expanding the sectoral focus, future work potentially emanating from this RAS could also provide a more regional focus, for example, by integrating CE principles into MSW management in coastal regions. This will help address the substantial strain on local waste management systems caused by tourist peaks in the summer months.
First and foremost, the adoptions and implementation of CEAP for the C&D sector developed under this RAS, will help cement the Government’s commitment and will contribute to further alignment with EU directives and the EU Circular Economy Action Plan. However, the implementation of the CE agenda in waste management will require significant financing, some of which may need to be leveraged from external sources, such as international finance institutions. This will help ensure that the waste management infrastructure is well aligned with the EU Action Plan and waste framework directives. MoESD and the Circular Economy Committee, newly established under this RAS as an advisory body to the Government beyond program's lifetime, could facilitate Croatia’s transformation towards a more circular economy.

Croatia Circular Economy