Reykjavík Bins Overflow

recycling in iceland

The implementation of a new recycling system in Reykjavík seems to be going through some hiccoughs, with some bins throughout the city overflowing.

The city recently encouraged residents to use neighbourhood recycling centres more extensively due to changes in waste management procedures. Service providers state that improvements are being worked on.

New regulations on waste sorting came into effect at the turn of the year, and now all waste must be sorted into separate categories: paper, plastic, organic waste, and non-recyclable waste. However, the changes seem to have led to have to some oversights, with some neighbourhood bins overflowing.

As one commentator noticed: “People are being told to recycle and use neighbourhood recycling bins, but unfortunately, it seems that the infrastructure is lacking to handle what is deposited.”

A statement on the Reykjavík city website currently reads: “[Waste management contractor] Terra has decided to discontinue the service of recycling stations in Reykjavik earlier than planned. Residents who have used these stations are advised to utilize nearby Sorpa recycling centres until the bins are replaced due to coordinated waste management in Reykjavik. Recycling bins cannot be emptied outside the scheduled timeframe.”

A temporary transition is expected to continue for a few days. Valgeir M. Baldursson, the director of Terra, stated to RÚV: “As is often the case with changes, there’s a transition period. But we’re almost done distributing the new bins and the new system is almost in place.”

Residents have been advised to use neighbourhood bins until the replacement of residential bins is completed, which is expected to be in September. Due to this, a significantly larger amount of waste has accumulated at the city’s recycling centres, and the emptying of bins has slowed down.

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Combustible Waste to Be Sent to Sweden

recycling iceland

The management of SORPA has entered into negotiations with Stena Recycling AB regarding the reception of combustible waste from the capital area for incineration in Sweden. Plans are currently underway to begin exporting combustible waste by autumn.

Read more: Milk Cartons Sent Abroad for Incineration

With this agreement, Icelandic waste will be utilized for energy production in Sweden instead of being disposed of in Iceland. It is estimated that 43,000 tonnes of combustible waste will be exported annually for incineration.

Stena’s offer was approximately 35% below SORPA’s cost estimate, which will potentially lower the impact on SORPA’s tariff schedule. The export of combustible waste will lead to a substantial reduction of approximately 65% in waste disposal at the Álfsnes facility compared to 2022. According to a statement by SORPA, the export will also significantly decrease waste accumulation nationwide and mitigate the negative impacts of the disposal site on local communities.

Read more: Milk Cartons to Be Recycled in Sweden

Notably, Icelandic waste management practices have recently come under critique when it came to light that milk cartons, which were supposed to be recycled domestically, had been sent abroad for incineration for years.

 

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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.

 

 

New Year, New Fees: Important Changes in 2023

hallgrímskirkja reykjavík

With the new year, several new regulations, taxes, and fees are coming into effect. Here, we break down the most significant changes for the nation and capital region in 2023.

New Fees on Fuel, Alcohol

In line with the 2023 budget, the alcohol tariff is set to rise some 7.7.%. The price hike will also disproportionately affect alcohol sold in Duty Free, which was taxed at 10% last year, but will now be taxed at 25%.

Fuel is likewise increasing in price. In order to fund infrastructure, the general cost of car ownership is rising significantly. A litre of petrol is set to increase by ISK 16 (0.11 USD, 0.11 EUR), and import duties on electric vehicles are also increasing.

Schools and Pools

In line with the expected 4.9% cost of living increase throughout Reykjavík, the price for admission to the city’s pools will also be increasing, from ISK 1,150 (8.10 USD, 7.58 EUR) to ISK 1,1210 (8.52 USD, 7.98 EUR). Children’s prices are increasing by similar amounts, although residents can still save significantly with pool passes.

The cost of preschool registration will also be rising on average from ISK 33,570 (236 USD, 221 EUR) to ISK 35,215 (248 USD, 232 EUR).

Changes in Recycling

Changes are also coming to waste management and recycling in the capital area.

Icelanders will now need to sort their trash into four bins, and recyclables will no longer be tolerated in the black bin (for trash). Bins will now be sorted into paper, plastic, organic waste, and mixed waste.

Alongside these changes come increases in cost, with garbage removal fees in Reykjavík increasing by 20%.

Read more about coming changes in the 2023 budget here.

 

New Recycling Sorting in Reykjavík Next Year

recycling in iceland

Starting next year, Icelandic households will have four bins to sort recycling into.

The changes come in light of new regulations in waste management, which include a restructuring of the collection of waste disposal fees, and a coordinated waste management system for the entire capital region.

One of the biggest changes for the average household, however, is that it will now be required for Icelandic households to properly recycle organic waste. A new bin is being introduced, which will be for organic material.

Reykjavík households will also need to use biodegradable paper bags for their organic waste instead of plastic. However, households will be receiving a year’s worth of paper bags. Biodegradable plastic bags have not been found by SORPA to degrade fast enough to be used.

Paper and plastic recycling bins will also disappear from communal locations, as these will now be picked up at all households.

It has not yet been decided to what extent households will share in the costs of the new system, though it will certainly require some changes. Households will need to have all four bins, but it has been stated that it may be possible for households to use two-part bins, which separate between plastic and paper, for instance.