Successful Litter Clean-Up Day Across Iceland

Plokk trash litter garbage cleanup

Around 1,000 people participated in Iceland’s annual litter clean-up day (Stóri Plokkdagurinn) yesterday. Some volunteers in the Reykjavík capital area filled large garbage bags in a matter of 15 minutes. One volunteer says Icelanders are not huge litterbugs and it’s the island’s strong winds that contribute to spreading trash.

Iceland’s Rotary Clubs and the Icelandic Red Cross were some of the organisations that got volunteers together and helped provide equipment for yesterday’s clean up operations. Volunteers picked up all sorts of trash, including large amounts of plastic. Car parts such as windshield wipers and even licence plates were among the litter that was bagged and properly disposed of.

“Icelanders aren’t such big litterbugs,” one volunteer told RÚV. “It’s just our wind that is sometimes a big influencer when it comes to distributing trash.”

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Organic Waste Collection to Begin in Reykjavík Area in May

organic waste Reykjavíkurborg

Residents of the Reykjavík capital area will be able to separate their organic waste for the first time starting next month. New legislation that took effect at the beginning of this year makes it illegal to bury organic waste, such as food scraps, in landfills. Organic waste will be used to produce methane fuel and compost.

New split bins and organic waste bags provided

Reykjavík residences currently have bins for mixed waste, paper and cardboard, and plastic, which residents are expected to sort separately. (Glass and metal are also disposed of separately at community sorting stations or SORPA locations.) Organic waste bins will now be added to the household waste to collect food scraps, including eggshells, leftovers containing fish and bones, and coffee grinds and filters. This organic waste was previously disposed of in mixed waste bins in the capital area.

Despite the addition of a new sorting category for household waste, a notice from the City of Reykjavík says that most residences will not see a change in the number of bins, as split bins will be introduced that have separate compartments for different categories of waste. Implementation will vary between detached homes and multi-family residences such as duplexes, triplexes, and apartment buildings. Municipalities will also provide containers and paper bags for the collection of organic waste.

In addition to the four-category sorting that happens at residences, the number of neighbourhood collection stations for metal, glass, and textile waste will be increased so that there is a station no more than 500 metres from each home. Larger neighbourhood sorting stations will be located no more than a kilometre from each home, where additional containers for paper and plastic will be available.

Organic waste collection will be implemented in phases across the capital area starting next month. All homes are to receive the new bins by autumn 2023.

More information is available on the City of Reykjavík website, though it should be noted that the English-language version is machine translated and may contain errors.

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.

Garbage Piling Up During Ongoing Strike

With negotiations between the City of Reykjavík and its workers in the Efling labour union at a standstill, parents of young children are not the only ones feeling the effects of the ongoing strike. City sanitation workers are also taking part in the action. As such, many public trash cans throughout Reykjavík are overflowing and, Vísir reports, residents are being asked to take care of their own garbage as best they can.

In a radio interview on Thursday, Ragna I. Halldórsdóttir, division head of the environmental and educational division of Sorpa, the waste management company responsible for Reykjavík’s garbage and recycling, encouraged residents to take their non-recyclable household garbage to the large dumpsters that are located in many neighbourhoods or to drive it directly to one of Sorpa’s six centres in the capital area.

Ragna said that individuals can bring up to two m3 [70 ft3] of garbage directly to Sorpa and drop it off free of charge. She also said that some larger neighbourhood associations have paid for delivery vans to transport their garbage to Sorpa on their behalf.

“At this time, we just have to take care of ourselves, unfortunately,” she remarked. “Or use delivery trucks or the like.”

Ragna said that Sorpa’s contingency plan is being reviewed to determine what actions will need to be undertaken if the strike continues, as well as how to handle a large influx of garbage likely to arrive at the company’s processing stations after the strike ends.

 

Garbage Cans Overflow in Reykjavík

garbage strike Reykjavík

It’s been one week since waste has been collected in Reykjavík, and garbage cans on the city’s streets are overflowing. Around 1,850 City of Reykjavík employees who are members of Efling Union have been on a general strike since February 17, partially or fully shutting down services at many preschools and primary schools, as well as affecting welfare services and waste management. All garbage collection services are suspended as a result of the strike, including from residential buildings and public spaces.

In a notice to residents, the City of Reykjavík stated recycling can be disposed of at SORPA drop-off centres around the city. Mixed household waste can be disposed of at recycling centres “if the situation in residents’ trash storage rooms is dire.” Residents will be charged for mixed household waste in excess of two cubic metres.

Sorpa’s website provides a list of recycling centres and drop-off points.

19 Tons of Garbage Collected From Beaches

Just over nineteen tons of garbage were collected from Icelandic beaches in the last two weeks, as part of the Nordic Coastal Clean-Up Day. It is believed that around 80% of the garbage comes from the fishing industry.

The initiative, overseen by the Environment Agency of Iceland, focused on beaches and shorelines on the Snæfellsnes peninsula, the Hópsnes peninsula near the Southwestern town of Grindavík, and Hornafjörður in Southeast Iceland. The Nordic Coastal Clean-Up Day is a collaborative project of environmental organizations from the Nordic countries. The day itself took place on May 6 in Iceland and is a part of the Hreinsum Ísland (Let’s Clean Iceland) initiative, spearheaded by the Icelandic Environment Association and Blái Herinn (The Blue army). The public can access info about the cleanups and also registers their own clean up in a special map where all the cleanup data is collected.

This is the second year in a row that Snæfellsnes has participated in the Nordic Beach Cleaning Day. Four different locations were cleaned on the peninsula, with as many as 40 volunteers taking part in efforts in the town of Stykkishölmur and anywhere from a dozen to 30 participants in other locations. Grundafjördúr mayor Björg Ágústsdóttir said the weather was beautiful for the volunteer effort.

“The amount never surprises me. I know there’s one ton of garbage per kilometre in Icelandic beaches, it doesn’t matter where you look,” said Tómas J. Knútsson, head of the Blái Herinn organization. “If we’re far away from settlements, the trash is about 80% fishing gear and 20% other forms of trash, which could have drifted from land or thrown overboard.” Closer to settlements, there’s more of household refuse. “Luckily, public interest is increasing, and we’re seeing more folks taking matters into their own hands in their hometown. For me, that’s the biggest positive,” said Tómas.