Iceland Bans Single-Use Plastics Starting in 2021

Iceland’s Parliament has passed an amendment to the Hygiene and Pollution Prevention Act, which, among other things, bans putting single-use plastics on the market from July 3, 2021. The products that will be banned include single-use cotton buds, plastic cutlery and dishes, straws, and stir sticks. Styrofoam food and drink containers, cups, and glasses will also be prohibited.

The unconditional ban will also cover oxo-plastic products, which are not biodegradable though often marketed as such. “Products from such plastics have made a place for themselves on the market in recent years, especially certain types of plastic bags, but their nature is to break down into microparticles that are harmful to health and the environment and are a growing problem around the world,” a government notice on the legislation states.

The amendment will also impose mandatory labelling on certain disposable plastic products that will remain permitted, such as menstrual products, wet wipes, and certain tobacco products. The labels will provide information about how to properly dispose of the products after use and the negative effects they have on the environment.

Exceptions will be made for products that are classified as medical devices.

“We would like to get rid of the idea of single-use plastic”

Icelandic innovation company Plastplan and discount grocery store chain Krónan are embarking on a plastics recycling collaboration that is intended to make the company more environmentally friendly and reduce its carbon footprint, RÚV reports.

Plastplan grew out of the Precious Plastics project and recycling model started by Dave Hakkens in The Netherlands in 2013. Product designer Björn Steinn Blumenstein then joined Precious Plastics’ international development team in 2017 and used it to found Plastplan with childhood friend Brynjólfur Stefánsson. Plastplan’s goal in Iceland is to recycle plastic and make new and useful items out of it. Their collaboration with Krónan will see them recycling plastic that comes into the store at its Grandi location and turn it into something new and practical to use in the company’s operations: the plastic dividers that customers use to separate their purchases on conveyor belts, for instance, labels, or baskets for fruits and vegetables.

Plastplan will be working with all the plastic packaging that comes into the store and usually gets disposed of right away. The company has four machines to assist in the recycling and recreation process: one that breaks the plastic down and three that mold the molten plastic into new objects. Björn Steinn explains that the machines are very similar to those that are used in larger plastic recycling stations, just scaled down. The smaller machines suit Plastplan at this stage, particularly since they are focused on making small items.

“We want consumers and companies to get something in their hands right away,” he said. “We want to create useful things to support a necessary change [in peoples’] ways of thinking.”

The environmental impact of single-use and/or disposable plastic has become a point of focus around the world, with some places, like Bali, banning plastic all together. Plastplan’s philosophy isn’t anti-plastic, however. “We would instead like to get rid of the idea of single-use plastics,” says Björn Steinn. “It’s possible to recycle plastic more than once and often, more than twice.”