“I was with a group of tourists today at the Laufskólavarða cairn when I saw lot of tissue on the ground. I was going to pick it up, as one does to keep one’s environment clean, but I was quick to leave it when I realized that this was poop lying all over the place,” guide Kristín Ólöf Steinþórsdóttir said in an interview with visir.is on Monday.
It is of course common for people to defecate out in the open nature, but Kristín stated that following the massive influx of tourists in the past few years, unsanitary practices have also sharply increased. In some areas the problem is out of control.
“I worked for a long time as a park ranger at Askja and there my coworkers and I were cleaning up toilet paper all summer. Then there has always been a lot of toilet paper in the highlands of course, but that it is significantly further away from a toilet. You ask yourself: does there really need to toilets set up everywhere?” Kristín asked in good humor.
She thinks the problem is too multifaceted to be solved with further installations of latrines alone. For instance, foreign tourists must be informed of the fact that the decomposition of organic materials is much slower in the rocky, vegetation sparse, Icelandic terrain than what people may be used to.
People in the tourist industry could also be more avid about telling their customers where one must pay to use the bathroom, and where not. Kristín named, for example, a roadside stop near Skaftafell which stays open past midnight and lets everyone use their facilities for free. Despite that, many tourist don’t dare to venture in and instead do their business outside the shop.
“Then of course the government could find a permanent solution to the fee-collecting problem at tourist locations,” Kristín added.
Ólafur H. Jónsson, spokesperson for the Landowners’ Association at Reykjahlíð, which was prohibited from collecting fees from tourists last week, has also voiced his concerns about the problem.
“The public’s right is completely gone when companies … organize and sell trips onto other peoples’ lands and make a profit. On the other hand, the landowner gets nothing and charges nothing for owning the land. He sits behind, his land damaged and excrement all over the place,” he told visir.is.
As reported yesterday, Ólafur and others with the landowners’ association want to close off their lands to the public, citing both danger and damage to the land.