Milk Cartons Sent Abroad for Incineration, Not Recycled Domestically

Under a new recycling law introduced last year, Icelanders are now required to sort recyclables into more bins than before, including plastic, paper, metal and glass, and now, organic waste. One of the most common household recycling items is the cardboard milk carton, which most households dutifully rinse and sort into the paper bin. However, it has come to light through investigative reporting at Heimildin that milk cartons, though recyclable, are not being processed in the manner they are claimed to be.

Instead of sending the milk cartons to the compactor to be recycled alongside other paper and cardboard, the milk cartons are instead sent to a cement factory on the mainland to be burned in an incinerator.

Full Circle: Read More About Recycling in Iceland

Margrét Gísladóttir, specialist in administration and communication at Icelandic dairy concern Mjólkursamsölun (MS), stated to Morgunblaðið that it was not up to MS to decide how the company’s packages are sorted. Their role, Margrét stated, was to instead encourage consumers to properly sort packages according to the guidelines set by municipalities and government agencies.

Currently, MS buys their packages from Tetra Pak, and Margrét stated to Morgunblaðið that MS is “constantly seeking the best packaging options,” taking into account environmental sustainability and food safety. MS has used its current milk carton since 2017. When it was adopted, it was considered to have a 66% smaller carbon footprint than the previous packaging. The selection was also based on the premise that “if they were properly sorted, they would be more environmentally friendly than other packaging,” according to Margrét.

The local recycling authorities have never provided feedback to Mjólkursamsölun that other packaging options are better, according to Margrét.

Read More: New Recycling Sorting in Reykjavík

Tetra Paks are recyclable, but because they are composed of layers of plastic, paper, and aluminium, they can prove difficult for some waste management systems.

When asked by Heimildin journalists whether such Tetra Pak milk cartons had been recycled properly, officials from SORPA, the municipal association for waste management, could not confirm that this had been the case for the last 16 years.

MS is the largest user of such packaging in Iceland, with around 40 million milk cartons produced and sold annually.



Cost of Milk and Dairy Products Increases

icelandic cows

The Agricultural Pricing Committee has decided to increase the minimum price that milk can be bought from dairy farmers, alongside the wholesale price of milk and dairy products. The price hikes can be traced to cost increases in the production and processing of milk, the governments website notes.

Price hikes traced to cost increases in production and processing of dairy

In an announcement on the government’s website yesterday, the Ministry of Food, Agriculture, and Fisheries announced that the Agricultural Pricing Committee – which sets the price at which milk is bought from dairy farmers – had decided to raise the minimum price of milk alongside the wholesale prices of milk and dairy products.

As noted in the announcement, the following price change came into effect on April 1, 2023: “Minimum price for category 1 (i.e. 1.fl) milk to farmers increases by 4.33%, from ISK 119.77 per litre [$0.88/€0.80] to ISK 124.96 per litre [$0.91/€0.83].

Additionally, the following price change will take effect on April 12, 2023: “The wholesale price of milk and dairy products set by the committee will generally increase by 3.60%.”

The announcement traces the decision to increase prices to cost increases in the production and processing of milk; since the last price determination in December 2022, the expense items within the operational costs of dairy farms have increased by 4.33%. During the same period, the processing and distribution costs of agricultural processing plants have increased by 2.74%, which serves as the basis for the increase in wholesale prices, as well as the increase in product prices.

Deep North Episode 13: Cream of the Crop

The local milk truck drving across the winding roads of the Westfjords

Row after row of steep but flat-topped mountains, interspersed with deep fjords. There’s barely enough land in between to make up a coastline, let alone farmland. But on the green patches between the cliffs and the waves, there are still more than a handful of farms dotting the landscape. The Westfjords have always been isolated, but after World War II, when the rest of Iceland experienced a period of sped-up industrialisation, the Westfjords were left behind. Once-thriving communities were slowly drained of life when the young people moved south, and a series of economic setbacks made life difficult for the ones that remained. and new generations still find ways of making it work.

Read more about life in the Westfjords in Cream of the Crop.

Cost of Dairy to Increase in New Year

According to a recent statement by the Ministry of Food, Agriculture, and Fisheries, the average cost of dairy products throughout Iceland is set to increase in the coming year.

As of January 2023, the wholesale price of dairy and dairy products in Iceland will increase by 3.5%.

The cost increase, which sets the price at which milk is bought from dairy farmers, is in response to increases in production costs since the price was last assessed in September of this year.

According to the Ministry, processing and distribution costs have risen by 5.06% in the last year, in addition to a 2.38% increase in livestock fees. Collective agreements have also caused recent increases to the cost of labour, in addition to the generally high inflation currently affecting the Icelandic economy.

Widespread Iodine Deficiency as Diets Change with Times

Fish Shop Nanna Rögnvaldardóttir

Icelanders have stopped consuming the large quantities of fish and milk that they used to, leading to widespread iodine deficiencies. RÚV reports that the situation has nutritionists concerned, as iodine deficiencies in pregnant people can lead to developmental delays in children.

Both fish and dairy are integral sources of iodine for people in industrialized countries. Nutritionists stress the importance of iodine intake during pregnancy, as children who do not receive enough iodine during this time tend to score low on developmental scales. In some countries, iodine-fortified salt is used in the production of baked goods as a way of introducing iodine into a wider diet when fish and milk consumption is low. This is an option that is currently under consideration in Iceland, but could create its own problems. If iodine was introduced into baked goods and breads, for instance, young children would be at risk of ingesting too much.

A brief history of the modern Icelandic diet

The typical Icelandic diet was first examined in 1939, when Professor Júlíus Sigurjónsson concluded that where people lived naturally had a significant effect on what they consumed. At the time, Júlíus found that Icelanders who lived close to the sea tended to eat a great deal of fish, while those who lived inland tended to drink large quantities of milk.

No further studies on the Icelandic diet were conducted until just over half a century later, in 1990. By that point, Icelanders’ lifestyle had undergone incredible change and their diets attested to that. Nearly all of the energy Icelanders consumed in the 90s came from protein and fat, with the average Icelander consuming roughly half a kilo [2.2 lbs] of dairy and four slices of bread a day. Water was only the fourth most-consumed beverage in the country, after coffee (an average of four cups a day), milk, and sugary soft drinks. Cholesterol was high and coronary artery disease was common. But at the same time, Icelanders ate the most fish of any nation in Europe, proportionally speaking.

2002 – 2010

A study in 2002 revealed more dramatic dietary shifts. By that point, fish, milk, and potatoes had been replaced by vegetables, cereal, and pasta in the diet of most Icelanders. The nation had also developed a taste for pork and chicken, neither of which had been consumed in great quantity in the past. Young boys no longer drank half a litre soda every day, but a full litre.

By 2010, however, it seemed Icelandic dietary habits were moving in the right direction. People were eating more fruit, vegetables, unprocessed bread and fish oil. Protein drinks became a major source of protein. Sugary soda consumption went down, although consumption of sugar-free soda remained high. Milk consumption went down.

2019 – 2021

The most recent survey, conducted over the years 2019 – 2021, found that fruit consumption is down among Icelanders, while consumption of saturated fat is on the rise. The Directorate of Health advises that people should only get a maximum of 10% of their energy from saturated fat, but according to this study, only 2% of Icelanders abide by that advice. Wholegrain bread has only recently become widely available in the country. Nutritionists say that Icelanders now have the opportunity to increase their consumption of not only whole grains, but also beans, nuts, and seeds. Low fibre intake is a broad cause for concern.

“If we look at what is causing most premature deaths around the world, a lack of fibre is one of the things that makes the biggest difference,” remarked Jóhanna Eyrún Torfadóttir, a nutritionist with the Directorate of Health. “Lack of fibre is causing premature death.” If the pattern of high consumption of saturated fat, low consumption of fibre continues, says Jóhanna Eyrún, there will be an increased risk for cancer, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes: “[O]ur biggest, long-term illnesses that are causing the most deaths.”

Icelandic diets are more diverse than ever

Today, Icelandic diets are far more diverse than they were in the past. More Icelanders are vegans and vegetarians, and more people are on low-carb and other special diets. This has made it difficult for the Directorate of Health to issue broad nutritional advisories like it once did.

In general, however, the Directorate has simple advice: Each a varied diet of moderate portions. People are advised to eat lots of vegetables and fruits, more whole than processed grains, fish two to three times a week, and meat in moderation. Low-fat dairy products and soft fats are preferable over saturated fats. Salt and sugar should be consumed in moderation and vitamin D is important.

In Focus: Iceland’s Dairy Industry

There is a famous cow in Norse mythology named Auðhumla. According to myth, she played a key role in the creation of the world – milk from her udders fed the first giants and she freed the first god, Búri, by licking on a salt block. Iceland’s first settlers not only drank milk, they used […]

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Milk Consumption on the Decline

Icelanders’ milk consumption has declined in recent years. Since 2010, total sales of “drinking milk” have gone down by 25%, or 7.9 million litres. The category “drinking milk” nýmjólk (whole milk), léttmjólk (low-fat milk), undanrenna (skim milk), and fjörmjólk (a vitamin-enriched blend of low-fat and skim milk) and is meant to differentiate between milk and other dairy products.

In 2018, 23.8 million litres of milk were sold, which is down 2.8% from the previous year. All combined, dairy companies that are part of the Association of Dairy Producers (SAM) sold 2.2% less milk between 2017 and 2018. The association reports a decline in the sales of all dairy products except cream and powdered milk.

While milk sales have decreased, however, sales of dairy products such as cream, powdered milk, and spreads have increased considerably since 2010. Cream sales have gone up the most, or around 30.4% since 2010 (7.1% just from last year).

Skyr sales have also fallen last year, with 169 fewer tons sold. Additionally, 102 fewer tons of cheese were sold in 2018.

Even as milk sales are down, however, people in the dairy industry are being encouraged to innovate. In 2017, the dairy cooperative Auðhumla gave three grants for the development of entrepreneurial projects that use milk as a key ingredient. One of the grants was ISK 3 million [$24,556; € 22,056] for innovative uses of whey that is a byproduct of milk production. Another ISK 3 million was given for the development of Jökla, a milk-based liquor that would be the first of its kind to be produced with Icelandic milk. The third grant went to a pilot project that seeks to develop health products from colostrum.

Dairy Prices Increase

icelandic cows

The price of wholesale milk and dairy products was raised 4.86% on September 1, RÚV reports. The price increase was put into effect by the Livestock Pricing Committee appointed by the Ministry of Industry and Innovation.

Increasing the price of wholesale dairy will, of course, affect prices at the consumer level. The price of butter, for instance, will go up by 15%. notes that the price for a liter of milk will increase by 4.8% (6 krónur), bringing it to ISK 132 ($1.23/€1.06) per litre.

The increase will undoubtedly be welcomed by dairy farmers, who will now be able to sell milk at a minimum increase of 3.52%. This increases their sale price from a minimum of ISK 87.40 to ISK 90.48.

The last price change to dairy products was made on January 1, 2017 as a result of rising milk production and processing costs. Since then, it’s been calculated that the dairy farmer’s production and distribution costs have increased by 7.14%.

The price increase was opposed by a representative of the Minister of Social Affairs and Equality but was unanimously approved by the remaining five members of the pricing committee.