Clothing Donation Containers to Double in Reykjavík

Textiles at an Icelandic Red Cross sorting facility.

The number of clothes donation containers in the capital area will be doubled from 40 to 80, and they will be placed closer to residents’ homes, RÚV reports. SORPA is taking over the management of the container network from the Icelandic Red Cross. The aim is to reuse more of the donated textiles, and those that cannot be repurposed will be burned for energy production rather than buried in landfills.

Containers overflowing with donations

Overflowing clothing donation containers have become a fairly common sight in Reykjavík in recent years. Donations often surpass the capacity of the containers and Iceland’s capacity to sort and reuse the textiles. In 2020, the Icelandic Red Cross exported about 200 shipping containers filled with used clothing, equivalent to around 900 tonnes of fabric.

Gunnar Dofri Ólafsson, director of communications at SORPA, says that currently only 3-5% of all textiles collected in Iceland are reused, in the sense of being worn by a second user after the first one discards them. Gunnar says SORPA’s main goal is to increase this percentage by whatever means possible.

Circular economy legislation implemented

New legislation called The Circular Law that took effect in Iceland last year stipulates that textile donations must be collected at drop-off centres close to where residents live. Now SORPA has taken over the management of the clothing donation containers as the Red Cross did not feel it had the capacity to add additional collection points.

Read more about the Circular Law in Iceland and entrepreneurs who are making the country’s economy more circular.

Cruise Ships Can Now Use Electricity in Reykjavík Harbour

cruise ship

Reykjavik’s Old Harbour just got significantly greener, as cruise ships can now connect to electricity while they are docked there, RÚV reports. This can save as much as 8,000 litres of diesel fuel per 12-hour stay. The change means less air and noise pollution from cruise ships in the city centre.

The first vessel to take advantage of the new power system was Norwegian cruise ship Fridtjof Nansen, which docked early yesterday morning. It was connected to electricity during an official ceremony yesterday. It took only ten minutes to connect the ship.

Read More: Cruise Ships in Iceland

Fridtjof Nansen’s Chief Engineer Jan Robin Pettersen says using electricity while in the harbour saves between 7,000 and 8,000 litres of diesel fuel over 12 hours. “Normally we would burn this and there would be emissions for Reykjavík and the planet but now we are saving that, and everyone that drives a diesel car knows that it’s expensive.” Having the engines switched off does take some getting used to, however. “For the first time, it’s quiet in the engine room and that’s something a little bit strange for us.”

All ports in the Trans-European Transport Network will be required to offer ships connection to electricity by 2030. In Iceland, this includes not just Reykjavík’s old harbour, but ports across the country.

Read more about Iceland’s energy transition efforts.

Fatal Accident in Borgarfjörður

fatal accident Iceland

One person was killed in a traffic accident by Hraunsnef in Borgarfjörður, West Iceland yesterday evening, RÚV reports. Two others were transported to the National University Hospital by helicopter. The cause of the accident is being investigated.

The accident occurred between 9:00 and 10:00 PM yesterday evening when a jeep and a passenger vehicle travelling in opposite directions crashed into each other. The driver of the passenger vehicle died in the crash and the driver and passenger in the jeep were transported to hospital.

Both vehicles are totalled as a result of the accident, which is being investigated by West Iceland Police.

Eleven people have died in traffic accidents in Iceland this year, six in January alone. That month was the deadliest for traffic accidents since record-keeping began some 50 years ago. Iceland ranks among the safer countries in Europe when it comes to road safety, however, and the accident rate has declined steadily over the last couple of decades due to road improvements and safer cars. The deadliest year of this century was in 2000, when 32 people died in traffic. In comparison, nine people died in traffic collisions in all of 2023.

Icelandic State Applies for International Loan for Grindavík

Grindavik from above

The Icelandic state has applied for a line of credit from the Council of Europe Development Bank due to Grindavík, RÚV reports. Government response measures for the earthquake- and volcano-hit town are expected to cost up to ISK 100 billion [$718 million, €668 million]. Business owners in the town say the government is leaving them in the lurch.

Roads, buildings, and power lines damaged

Grindavík (pop. 3,600), a fishing town on Iceland’s Reykjanes peninsula, was evacuated on November 10, 2023 due to powerful seismic activity that heavily damaged buildings, homes, and roads in the town. Since December, five eruptions have occurred just north of the town, including one that is currently ongoing. Lava from the eruptions has cut off roads in and out of the town on several occasions, damaged power and water lines to the town, and destroyed three houses at its north edge.

While the town has been largely evacuated of residents since November 2023, some businesses do continue to operate there, particularly in the harbour. Since the seismic and volcanic activity began, they have had to contend with repeated power outages, evacuations, and closures of the town by civil protection authorities.

Line of credit won’t necessarily be used

The Icelandic government’s response measures to the ongoing events have focused on buying up residential properties from residents who want to relocate, building lava barriers around the town, and repairing public infrastructure in Grindavík. The cost of the first two measures is projected to be around ISK 70-80 billion [$503-575 million, €467-534 million], while the cost of repairs to return the town to an inhabitable state is projected at ISK 14-19 billion [$101-137 million, €94-127 million].

“Then we need to draw on some lines of credit, one of the things we have applied for is a loan from the Council of Europe Development Bank,” stated Minister of Finance Sigurður Ingi. “That’s not to say that we need to use it, it’s more of a precaution in order to have the possibility because no one can tell us the exact scope of the projects we have to undertake.”

Grindavík business owners unhappy with support measures

The government of Iceland has drafted a bill outlining continuing support measures for the town of Grindavík. It has received 45 comments on the official consultation portal, most criticising the lack of support for the town’s businesses. Existing measures have largely been centred on compensating loss of income, but business owners have criticised that the government is not offering to buy up their properties as it has done for Grindavík’s residents.

The bill has gone through its first reading in Parliament and is being reviewed in the Economic Affairs and Trade Committee.

Rescued Reindeer Calf Thriving in East Iceland

The Reindeer Park

A half-month-old reindeer calf found abandoned in the mountains is now thriving in an East Iceland sanctuary called the Reindeer Park. The calf’s caretakers say it’s a lot of work to care for an abandoned calf, but it’s not their first time. Vísir reported first.

The Reindeer Park is located at Vínland, a guesthouse near Egilsstaðir, East Iceland. Kolbrún Edda, one of the park’s caretakers, says it received a phone call about a small reindeer calf found abandoned in the mountains outside Egilsstaðir, near Ormsstaðir. Björn Magnússon, a reindeer farmer and Edda’s grandfather, then rushed to its rescue.

The Reindeer Park
The Reindeer Park.

Drinks every two hours

The farm is already home to two reindeer bulls, named Mosi and Garpur, that were rescued and fostered by Björn in 2021. They were only a few days old when they were rescued by Björn, who served as their surrogate mother, as he is currently doing with the new calf. This requires being with the calf day and night, sleeping outside in the barn and feeding her every two hours. The new calf was only a day or two old when she was brought to the Reindeer Park, Edda says. “She has thrived quite well and is about half a month old today. It’s a ton of work to have a motherless reindeer calf and grandpa has been with her around the clock, day and night, taking care of her and making sure she gets everything she needs.”

The Reindeer Park
The Reindeer Park.

Reindeer are not originally native to Iceland but were imported to four different regions from Finnmark, Norway between 1771 and 1787. Only the last group, imported to East Iceland, thrived, which remains the only region where they are found in Iceland. Reindeer have no natural predators in Iceland, other than humans, and reindeer hunting is permitted with a licence and during a designated season. According to the Reindeer Park website, reindeer rarely give birth to twins, but even when they do, they do not produce enough milk for more than one calf. This is likely the reason for calves occasionally being found abandoned.

Naming competition launched

The Reindeer Park has launched a naming competition for the new female calf in its care. Edda told Iceland Review the winner will receive a prize that includes two nights of accommodation at the park, a ticket to nearby Vök Baths, and more.

Edda says that the park is a popular destination for travellers in the area. “We’ve been getting a lot of visitors despite little advertising, and last winter we had visitors every single day, despite not having any opening hours. And last summer around 4,000 people came.”

Iceland to Decide on Continued Whaling Next Week

Golli. Hvalur hf. operations in Iceland

A decision will be made next Tuesday on whether a five-year whaling licence will be issued to Hvalur hf., Iceland’s Minister of Fisheries Bjarkey Olsen Gunnarsdóttir has stated. RÚV reported on the minister’s statement, made during question period in Alþingi this morning. Hvalur hf. is the only Icelandic company that has been hunting whales in recent years and their licence for the controversial practice expired in 2023.

Hvalur hf. submitted an application for a new five-year licence in January. The whaling season often begins in June, but the application is still under review within the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries. Last month, the minister requested various institutions to review and comment on the application and says the last of the comments were submitted two days ago. Hvalur hf. has been given until tomorrow to respond to the institutions’ comments and a final decision on whether or not to issue a licence to the company will be made on Tuesday next week.

Animal welfare concerns

The minister has been criticised for the application’s long procedure time, including by Centre Party MP Bergþór Ólason. Bjarkey pointed out that last time a whaling licence was issued, in 2019, the procedure took around four months and whaling began in mid-July. “Since then, issues have emerged, for example about how the animals are killed and the interplay between whaling and animal welfare,” Bjarkey stated.

Last year, then-Minister of Fisheries Svandís Svavarsdóttir temporarily halted the whaling season last June one day before it was set to begin in light of the strong opinion of an animal welfare advisory board under Iceland’s Food and Veterinary Authority. The board concluded that the fishing method used when hunting large whales did not comply with the Act on Animal Welfare. The whaling ban was later lifted at the end of August, allowing Hvalur hf. to hunt whales last autumn. The company’s ships were delayed in leaving Reykjavík harbour by two activists who climbed their masts in protest.

In January of this year, the Parliamentary Ombudsman found that Svandís’ decision to halt whaling had not been in accordance with the law. The decision and subsequent finding caused tension within the governing coalition.

Read More: Sea Change

Former Fisheries Minister Svandís Svavarsdóttir had previously raised the possibility of stopping whaling in Iceland, including in an editorial published in 2022, where she cited the practice’s marginal economic benefit and harm to Iceland’s international image. Prominent Icelanders have spoken out against the practice recently, asking current Fisheries Minister Bjarkey Olsen Gunnarsdóttir not to issue a new licence to Hvalur hf.

Power Restored to Grindavík

The Reykjanes eruption on May 31, 2024

Power was restored to the town of Grindavík in Southwest Iceland around 11:00 PM yesterday evening. An ongoing eruption heavily damaged power lines to the town last week. Crews worked day and night to lay a new 4 km [2.5 mi] line that will temporarily provide the town with electricity.

On May 29 around 12:45 PM, an eruption began north of Grindavík, the fifth eruption in the area since December. Energy company HS Orka cut power to the town just after 3:00 PM as lava was flowing towards a high-voltage transmission line. An hour later, poles supporting the overhead line that transports electricity from Svartsengi Power Station to Grindavík were in flames.

New line is temporary and has less capacity

The new, temporary power line does not have the same capacity as the one that was destroyed, but should be able to fulfill the town’s current demand. Grindavík has been largely evacuated of residents since seismic activity heavily damaged the town in November 2023. Several businesses are still operating in the town, however, particularly in the harbour area, and have had to rely on backup generators for the past week.

HS Veitur. An electricity pole damaged by lava.

The eruption has decreased in intensity since it began just over a week ago, but shows no signs of stopping. It does not impact international travel to and from Iceland.

Watch a video of the eruption below.

Wintry Weather to Continue in North and East Iceland

Vaðlaheiði tunnel, North Iceland

The cold spell that has brought snowstorms to North Iceland this week is expected to continue into the weekend, the Icelandic Met Office reports. Yellow and orange weather alerts will be in effect across much of the country throughout today. Travellers are encouraged to check weather conditions and road conditions before setting out.

The weather forecast predicts continued gale-force winds and precipitation into the weekend in North and East Iceland, bringing precipitation in the form of sleet, snow, or rain. Mountain roads in North and East Iceland are still impassable in many places. Orange warnings go into effect in the Westfjords and Northwest Iceland this afternoon.

The weather in the north and east is expected to calm for some time tomorrow, but another low front will come in tomorrow evening that is expected to bring precipitation to the region, lasting into Saturday morning. The weather on Friday and Saturday is, however, expected to be less extreme than what the regions have experienced during the week. Temperatures are expected to remain below 10°C in North and East Iceland until next week.

Lava Pools Formed at Ongoing Eruption

Volcano Reykjanes eruption on May 31, 2024

The Icelandic Met Office is closely monitoring lava pools that have formed at the ongoing eruption on the Reykjanes peninsula, Southwest Iceland, RÚV reports. Lava is pooling to the south of the eruption site and could burst forth from the pools suddenly in the coming days. The eruption continues at a steady pace and shows no signs of stopping soon.

The eruption northeast of Sýlingafell began last Wednesday, May 29, around 12:45 PM. It is the eighth eruption on Southwest Iceland’s Reykjanes peninsula since 2021 and the fifth in the area north of Grindavík since December. The eruption does not impact international travel through Iceland.

The eruption began more powerfully than the four eruptions that preceded it in the area, but reduced in intensity within 24 hours. There are currently two to three active craters along the fissure and Natural Hazard Specialist at the Met Office Sigríður Magnea Óskarsdóttir stated that the institution was monitoring the flow of lava closely.

Lava could burst forth from the pools south of the eruption with considerable force, so it is vital to ensure no one is near the eruption when that happens.

Watch a video of our visit to the eruption area here.

Who is Iceland’s New President, Halla Tómasdóttir?

Halla Tómasdottir President

Halla Tómasdóttir won Iceland’s presidential election on June 1 with 34.1% of the vote, beating out a record number of candidates. Halla was polling at around 5% at the start of the election campaign but her support rose steadily leading up to the election. Her final share of the votes proved to be even higher than polls predicted only days before the election.

Halla is a businessperson and most recently CEO of The B Team, a global nonprofit initiative co-founded by Sir Richard Branson and Jochen Zeitz. She took leave from the position to run for president. Halla ran for the presidency once before, in 2016, when she received 27.9% of the vote and ended as runner-up to Guðni Th. Jóhannesson, who has been president since.

Halla has had a long career in business and founded the female-led investment firm Auður Capital as well as being an early member of the founding team of Reykjavík University. During her presidential campaign, Halla told Iceland Review she has “a vision of how to use the office to bring together different groups and generations to communicate and collaborate on the many issues we face.”

Presidential elections are held every four years in Iceland. While there is no term limit for the office, Halla has stated that she considers it acceptable for a president to sit two to three terms, like her predecessor Guðni. Halla is currently 55 years old. She is the second woman to be elected President of Iceland, after Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, who in 1980 became the first female democratically elected head of state in the world.

Halla takes office on August 1, 2024.