Wasting Away: How Iceland is dealing with its waste

The inhabitants of the Western world are consumers. It is no secret that we produce more than we need and throw away more than we should. In a world where mass production is the norm, it is not a surprise that we are drowning in garbage. Our overconsumption has led to plastic in our oceans, massive deforestation, and let’s not talk about animal extinction.

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Goose Flew to Iceland from Scotland in Less Than a Day

A greylag goose named Arnór completed its migratory flight from the Firth of Tay in Scotland to the Fagurhólsmýri moor in Southeast Iceland in 20 hours, RÚV reports. This is an estimated distance of 1,115km (693mi). The gander was tagged with a GPS tracker in Blönduós, North Iceland in July 2018 before flying back to Scotland, and spending its winter just east of the city of Dundee.

According to ornithologist Arnór Þórir Sigfússon, who posted his namesake’s journey on Facebook on Wednesday, the gander is the third greylag to have been tagged with a GPS tracker. The other two were geese named Linda and Linda Björk. Linda was shot by a hunter in Skagafjörður in the fall of 2016; Linda Björk’s transmitter was found in 2017. Its owner’s fate is unknown, although Linda Björk is presumed to be dead.

Meanwhile, Árnor the greylag gander has had a far happier story since being tagged last year. His tracking data shows that he spent some time in the fishing grounds along the southern coast of Iceland before heading to Scotland. He arrived in the Firth of Tay in November and has been wintering there since. Arnór set off on his journey back to Iceland on Monday around midnight and did not stop until he arrived in Fagurhólsmýri. He then rested there for a short time. As of 6 am on Wednesday morning, however, Arnór had already taken off again, and was reported to be flying over the Skeiðarársandur plain and northwest over the Vatnajökull glacier.

Árnor Þórir said he expected that before long, the gander would arrive back in Blönduós, where an eager group of geese enthusiasts were looking forward to welcoming the international traveller.

Iceland Wins Trademark Dispute Against Supermarket Chain

Iceland supermarket

The European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) has ruled that UK-based supermarket chain Iceland Foods Ltd. may not register a trademark on the word “Iceland” within the European Union, Kjarninn reports.

The supermarket chain secured a EU-wide trademark for the word “Iceland” in 2014, which Icelandic authorities sued to have invalidated on the basis of being far too broad and creating a monopoly that prevented Icelandic companies from registering their products with reference to their country of origin. Moreover, said the Icelandic government, “Iceland” is widely received as a geographical name and should have never been approved for trademark in the first place.

Now, years later, EUIPO has ruled in favour of Iceland – the country – and invalidated the supermarket’s trademark entirely, noting that “It has been adequately shown that consumers in EU countries know that Iceland is a country in Europe and also that the country has historical and economic ties to EU countries, in addition to geographic proximity.”

Foreign Minister Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson said he welcomed the ruling, but was not surprised by it. “…[I]t defies common sense that a foreign company can stake a claim to the name of a sovereign nation as was done [in this case],” he remarked. “What we’re talking about here is a milestone victory in a matter of real importance for Icelandic exporters. Our country is known for its purity and its sustainability, hence the value of indicating the origin of Icelandic products.”

Iceland Foods Ltd. has two months to appeal the ruling.

Secret Solstice May Relocate Amidst Nonpayment Complaints

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1555062230097{margin-bottom: 0px !important;}”]The Secret Solstice music festival owes the City of Reykjavík a total of ISK 42.5 million ($354,000/€314,000), RÚV reports, a debt that the capital’s district commissioner has unsuccessfully attempted to recover four times already. The news comes amidst multiple complaints from previous headliners and performers who say they still have not been paid for taking part in previous years’ festivals. Nevertheless, representatives for Secret Solstice insist that this year’s event will go on as planned – with or without the city’s involvement – and will be the “biggest and best yet.”

Performers say they haven’t been paid

Secret Solstice has been held annually in Reykjavík since 2014. In that time, festival attendance has gone from 8,000 attendees in the first year to upwards of 15,000 in 2018. The festival has hosted dozens of big name international acts such as Bonnie Tyler, Deftones, FKA Twigs, Foo Fighters, The Prodigy, Radiohead, and the Wu Tang Clan, among others. This year’s headliners include Black Eyed Peas, Patti Smith, Pussy Riot, and Robert Plant. However, although Solstice Productions, the company that previously managed the festival put on an additional large concert with Guns ‘N Roses only last year, it seems that numerous Secret Solstice performers have yet to be paid.

Metal band Slayer, who headlined in 2018, is reportedly suing the festival organisers for only having received partial payment; the band says it is still owed ISK 16 million ($133,000/€118,000). The Icelandic feminist rap collective Reykjavíkurdætur has also recently blasted the festival, saying that not only were they not paid for last year’s festival, but they’ve also been invited this year to perform for free.

Representatives for Secret Solstice have stated that the festival was sold to a new company, Live Events, and as such, is not responsible for settling previous festival debts incurred by Solstice Productions. Live Events is registered to Guðmundur Hreiðarsson Viborg, an economist who resides in the Canary Islands. “The alleged debt has absolutely nothing to do with Live Events, as the company was not involved with previous festivals,” read a statement issued by Secret Solstice lawyers.

Relocation under discussion

Secret Solstice has a contract with the City of Reykjavík that should allow it to hold the festival in a large park in Laugardalur neighbourhood every summer until 2020. This location has proved controversial, as residents in the surrounding neighborhoods have complained about festivalgoers’ persistent drug use as well as organisers leaving the festival grounds strewn with garbage after the end of the event.

Organisers have pledged to address these complaints but may not be able to reconcile with the city so easily. In light of its outstanding debt, in fact, the City of Reykjavík has stated that permits will not be issued for the 2019 event unless ISK 11.6 million [$96,699; € 85,788] of its debt is paid by April 1, 2019.

As such, Secret Solstice seems to be considering other options for festival locations. RÚV reports that representatives for the festival met with the mayor of the Ölfus municipality in South Iceland on Wednesday about the possibility of hosting the event there. According to an announcement made the same day, negotiations are underway with Fákasel, a restaurant and horse park located about half an hour outside of Reykjavík, to possibly stage the event on their spacious property.

Ölfus mayor Elliði Vignisson noted that a festival of Secret Solstice’s size is perhaps better suited to being held in a less populous area. And while nothing has been decided for certain about the relocation, he’s open to the idea: “You should never say no until you’ve first said maybe.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Higher Unemployment and Fewer Foreign Workers Expected

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1555061391741{margin-bottom: 0px !important;}”]Recent data published by Statistics Iceland shows that during the first three months of the year, there were 3,500 vacant jobs on the Icelandic labour market. This puts the country’s job vacancy rate at 1.5% during the first quarter of 2019. Other recent employment data shows a gender gap in full-time employment rates, and suggests that in the near future, unemployment is likely to rise and fewer foreign nationals will be seeking work in Iceland.

Fewer women in full-time positions than men

As Kjarninn reports, Statistics Iceland has been collecting data on the labour market in Iceland since 2003, but this is the first time that data on job vacancies has been made public. The survey has been conducted in collaboration with rest of the European Economic Area (EEA) in order to allow for job vacancy comparisons between European countries. As a point of reference, the job vacancy rate for EU countries in the last quarter of 2018 was, on average, 2.3%. The highest rate was in the Czech Republic, at 6%, and the lowest was in Greece, at .4%.

Upon examining data for the end of the fourth quarter in 2018, Kjarninn found that on average, there were 203,700 people between the ages of 16 to 74 on the Icelandic labour market. Of these, 198,900 were working, while 4,900 people were unemployed and seeking jobs. Job market participation was at 80%, the employment rate was 78.6%, and the unemployment rate was 2.4%. The number of working individuals increased by 4,500 between 2017 and 2018, while the employment rate dropped by half a percentage point.

The data also showed that there were 148,500 people working full-time at the end of the fourth quarter of 2018, or 74.7%. At the same time, 50,400 people, or 25.3%, were only employed part-time. The number of people in full-time positions increased by 4,800 people, while the number of people in part-time positions remained unchanged. There was a considerable gender divide when it came to full-time employment: 62.3% of working women were employed full time, versus 88.6% of working men.

Unemployment projected to rise

Unemployment was highest among workers aged 16 to 24 at the end of the fourth quarter in 2018, or 5.3%. If education levels are examined, people who have only completed a primary education had a 4.3% unemployment rate. Individuals who have completed vocational training or upper secondary education had an unemployment rate of 2.1%; university graduates had a 1.3% unemployment rate. There was no difference in the unemployment rates in and outside the capital area.

Per Statistics Iceland data, unemployment has been relatively stable for the last two years, although the Directorate of Labour has seen an increase in the number of people registered for unemployment in the last few months.

In February 2019, unemployment reached 3.1%, versus 2.1% in February 2018. According to the Directorate of Labour, following the WOW air bankruptcy in March 2019, 1,600 people were laid off and more are expected. If all of these people go on unemployment, the overall unemployment rate would immediately jump to 4%. Landsbankinn, which also keeps employment data, says that it is not currently possible to fully predict employment trends in the coming months, but says that unemployment will doubtlessly increase.

Fewer Foreign Workers Expected

The percentage of foreigners living and working in Iceland has never been higher than it was in 2018, when immigrants made up 12.6% of the population. From 2017 to 2018, 13,930 foreigners moved to Iceland, which was just under a 46% increase of foreign nationals in Iceland. This increase is credited to the booming tourism industry and availability of jobs in the tourism, service, and construction sectors.

As the economy begins to cool, however, the number of foreign nationals coming to work in Iceland appears to be going down as well. According to Statistics Iceland data, 820 foreign nationals moved to Iceland in the first two months of 2019, versus 1,620 foreign nationals who moved to the country in the first two months of 2018. This suggests that there will be fewer foreigners moving to Iceland in at least the first quarter of the year, if not the whole year overall.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]