‘If we decided it was our goal to reduce food waste, we’d do it’

Food waste in Iceland is not only a climate problem, says Minister for the Environment Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson, it’s also disrespectful. The Minister says the Icelandic public needs to completely change its attitude towards this serious problem, and more creative solutions need to be considered to deal with it. RÚV reports.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that a third of the world’s food is thrown away. Food waste has long been a major topic of concern in Iceland; the Environment Agency in Iceland has found that 7 out of 10 Icelanders say they want to do their part to reduce food waste. Moreover, reducing food waste is one of the major prongs of the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources’ national policy on waste, which is in effect from 2016-2027. The policy is underpinned by the “ideology of the circular economy, where the priority is to reduce the creation of waste and thereby decrease the demand for finite natural resources.”

But although food waste was the first of nine focal points that this policy targeted from 2016-2017, thus far, there’s been little observable change in the actual amount of food wasted in the country over the years.


Iceland’s National Policy on Waste Timeline, 2016-2027; via the Environment Agency of Iceland

Guðlaugur Þór says it’s hard to legislate controls or punishments related to food wastage. What’s really needed, therefore, is a complete attitude shift amongst consumers, retailers, and producers—the whole chain must stand together, he says. It’s a matter of public will above all else.

“We Icelanders can be very quick to adapt to anything and everything, so if we decided it was our goal to reduce food waste, we’d do it.”

The Environment Agency’s website, Together Against Waste, is part of broader awareness-raising campaigns and includes many suggestions for ways in which individuals can do their part to reduce food waste, from taking a picture of what you have in the fridge before you go grocery shopping to cooking from leftovers to “using your nose” to determine if food is still good after its “Best By” date has passed.

One creative solution that has been suggested to aid in food waste reduction is to open stores that specifically sell food items that are approaching their “Sell By” dates.

However the issue is addressed, addressed it must be, says the minister. “One third of all food [in the world] is thrown away,” concludes Guðlaugur Þór. “We can all see that that’s unacceptable.”

Ptarmigan Quota Increased for Upcoming Hunting Season

The Ministry of the Environment, Energy, and Climate has announced that the annual ptarmigan hunting season will begin on November 1 and conclude on December 4. This year’s hunting quota has been set at 26,000 birds, an increase of 6,000 from last year.

Poor recruitment in Northeast and West Iceland

Rock ptarmigan are still hunted in Iceland as they are considered a delicacy, often consumed on Christmas Eve. The Icelandic Institute of Natural History claims the preservation status the ptarmigan gained in 2003 has helped to significantly restore numbers. In May, the institute reported that the ptarmigan population was nearing its zenith in West and Northwest Iceland in the Westfjords while the population was likely declining in Northeast and East Iceland. In August, the institute reported poor recruitment in Northeast and West Iceland. The total ptarmigan population was estimated at just under 300,000 birds.

Yesterday, Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson, Minister for the Environment, Energy, and Climate, announced the arrangement of this year’s ptarmigan hunting season. An announcement on the government’s website stated that hunting season shall last from November 1 to December 4, between 12 noon and sunset, from Tuesdays to Fridays. This year’s arrangement is similar to last year’s, with the exception that the quota has been increased to 26,000 birds, an increase of 6,000.

Hunters asked to show moderation

Guðlaugur Þór also asked hunters to show moderation in light of the recruitment failure in Northeast and West Iceland: poor weather conditions this spring and summer are the likely explanation. The minister further encouraged hunters to refrain from hunting in large numbers in Northeast Iceland. Lastly, the announcement iterates the ban on ptarmigan sales, which applies equally to the sale of ptarmigan to resellers and others.

“I’ve emphasised that the Environment Agency of Iceland should expedite the creation of a management and protection plan for the ptarmigan and that the arrangement of hunting season should based on that plan in the future,” the press release reads.

The statement adds that a timeline for the management and protection plan, which involves a high level of cooperation with interested parties, has been established and that the plan would likely be introduced in May of 2023.

Iceland Lagging Behind on Climate, Minister Suggests

Minister Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarsson.

At a Climate Day conference in Reykjavík, Minister Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson stated that Iceland would need to do “even better” with regard to greenhouse-gas emissions, as Iceland is lagging behind countries to which it would like to compare favourably.

Climate change in layman’s terms

Many of Iceland’s foremost experts on climate change convened at the Harpa Music and Conference Hall in Reykjavík for Climate Day (sponsored by Iceland’s Environment Agency). Over 20 lectures were scheduled from representatives of various institutions and agencies in the hopes of discussing global warming in layman’s terms.

Among today’s speakers was Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson, Minister of the Environment, Energy and Climate, who revealed plans to make Iceland’s emissions ledger accessible to the public in one place, making monitoring the country’s climate goals easier.

As noted by RÚV, Guðlaugur Þór referred to data from Iceland’s Environment Agency, which showed that emissions for which Iceland is directly responsible totalled 2,716 tonnes in 2020 – down by 13% since 2005, the benchmark year for Iceland’s commitments. Emissions in 2020 were 5% lower than in 2019. “Improvements must be made,” Guðlaugur Þór stated.

“When you delve into the numbers, you can see that the biggest decline in emissions has been in road transportation, and it is believed that the pandemic played a big role in that regard. Iceland lags behind many countries to which we’d like to compare ourselves when it comes to climate change. This means that we need to work fast and work together to achieve better results.”

Guðlaugur also emphasised the importance of basing climate action on scientific facts and revealed that work had begun to analyse the Ministry’s projects to achieve goals put forth in the government agreement. According to the Minister, information on emissions is to be accessible to the public via a new climate dashboard.

“It’s my hope that data on the dashboard will be interconnected so that one can access a wide variety of information in an easy way. We need to publish updates regularly on how well we’re doing in meeting our goals,” Guðlaugur remarked.