Transparent Bags Save 1,200 Tonnes of Trash from Landfill Annually

recycling in iceland

The amount of unsorted trash that is landfilled by SORPA in the Reykjavík capital area has reduced by 18% since the waste management company began requiring customers to use transparent garbage bags. This is the equivalent of 1,200 tonnes of trash diverted from landfill per year. SORPA’s research prior to the intiative suggested that just over half of the waste taken to its sorting centres for landfilling could be diverted.

In July 2021, new rules took effect at SORPA requiring all mixed waste brought to sorting centres to be in transparent bags. The clear bags are intended to help staff at sorting centres assist customers in sorting the trash appropriately. The initiative was modelled on similar programs in other Nordic countries and is intended to “support the implementation of the circular economy, which is based on reducing waste, using things for longer, recycling, and reusing,” according to a notice from SORPA.

Read More: How Iceland is dealing with its waste

The notice states that the sale of transparent garbage bags in the capital area has increased from three out of every 100 bags to 50 out of every 100. SORPA expects the proportion to grow as awareness of the campaign spreads. The company also plans to implement an ISK 500 [$3.85/€3.49] charge for each black garbage bag brought to sorting centres.

Snowiest February in Reykjavík Since 2000

snow plow shoveling winter weather

The price tag for snow removal in the City of Reykjavík this February is expected to amount to ISK 300 million [$2.3 million; €2.1 million], roughly double the average cost for that month, Vísir reports. Snow plough operators say that consistent snowfall and thick ice on the roads have made the last month a challenge. This was the snowiest February in Reykjavík since the year 2000, according to the Icelandic Met Office.

A series of storms hit Iceland last month, most bringing heavy precipitation. Snow and ice have accumulated in the streets of Reykjavík and snow plough operators have hardly been able to finish clearing the results of one snowfall before the next filled the streets yet again. Cumulative snowfall in Reykjavík last month amounted to 113.8 mm, which is 26% above the average for that month between 1991-2020.

“It’s been a terrible time,” Hjalti Jóhannes Guðmundsson, office manager of land maintenance at the City of Reykjavík stated. “It’s snowed, it’s rained, it’s frozen over, and it’s snowed again. So we never really get to finish our project, to clear properly before the next snowfall begins. So we’ve had to take ploughs and equipment and manpower from the lowest priority in residential streets and put them back in other projects to just start all over again.” Many residential streets in the city have thus had to wait for ploughing as main thoroughfares are prioritised.

Plough operator Þorkell Hjaltason says the ice that has formed on the streets has made snow removal particularly difficult. “This is totally new, at least now. It was more like this around 1980, when I was also ploughing. Then it was often like this. But we haven’t seen this in many years.” He says the conditions have exhausted staff in recent days.

A banner on the City of Reykjavík website states that snow removal is “at full blast,” and urges residents who have comments on snow removal to use the webchat service, online submission form, or send an email, as the phone lines are busy. The banner notes that garbage collection is also behind schedule and asks residents to clear snow and spread salt or gravel around their garbage cans.

Iceland Prepares to Receive Refugees from Ukraine

Iceland will receive refugees from Ukraine, as other European countries are doing, stated the chairman of the Icelandic Parliament’s Refugee Committee. The Directorate of Immigration has removed Ukraine from its list of safe countries, making it possible for Ukrainians to apply for international protection in Iceland, and several dozens have already done so. Authorities have yet to determine how many refugees from the country will be accepted, but preparations to receive them are already underway.

Municipalities want to take part

“We have begun the preparations for the project but strongly emphasise monitoring and observing how European countries will assist the tremendous number of people that are now seeking refuge,” Stefán Vagn Stefánsson, chairman of the Refugee Committee, told Vísir. “We will try to the best of our ability to be in step with what other European nations are doing. We have initiated dialogue with municipalities to try to find out how much housing is available in the country.”

Stefán stated that a number of municipalities in Iceland had already declared that they would like to participate in the resettlement of refugees. He expects more municipalities to do so. “It’s very gratifying to see the solidarity and the willingness from municipalities to take part in the project.”

Number of refugees to be determined

The committee has not yet determined how many refugees will be taken in from Ukraine. “I won’t give you a number because it doesn’t exist. We don’t have one yet. It’s very bad to give a number then not be able to honour it. The situation is such that this is very unlike the projects we have had so far,” Stefán stated.

“This is a European country and residents of Ukraine are free to come here and be here for 90 days. Ukraine has been taken off the Directorate of Immigration’s list of safe countries, so people can apply for international protection. That has already begun, some dozens have applied for it, so the project has begun in some respect.”

The Committee’s next meeting is scheduled for Friday.

Labour of Love

In early January, my colleague and I drove north from Reykjavík toward the northern tip of the Tröllaskagi peninsula. Although Iceland’s dimensions appear sizeable on satellite maps, it takes less than four hours to traverse its length by car; before noon, we turned into Vestur-Fljót, in the Flókadalur valley, and parked in front of a red-and-white house on the farm Syðsti-Mór. The farmstead had been abandoned since 2013 – until 20-year-old Kristófer Orri Hlynsson moved in alone and began farming.

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