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.


[visual-link-preview encoded=”eyJ0eXBlIjoiaW50ZXJuYWwiLCJwb3N0IjoxNTc2NTUsInBvc3RfbGFiZWwiOiJQb3N0IDE1NzY1NSAtIEZ1bGwgQ2lyY2xlIiwidXJsIjoiIiwiaW1hZ2VfaWQiOjE1NzY2MSwiaW1hZ2VfdXJsIjoiaHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuaWNlbGFuZHJldmlldy5jb20vd3AtY29udGVudC91cGxvYWRzLzIwMjMvMDQvRnVsbC1jaXJjbGVfd2ViLnBuZyIsInRpdGxlIjoiRnVsbCBDaXJjbGUiLCJzdW1tYXJ5IjoiIiwidGVtcGxhdGUiOiJzcG90bGlnaHQifQ==”]

Milk Cartons to Be Recycled in Sweden

recycling in iceland

After an investigative report revealed that recyclable milk cartons from Iceland were being shipped to a cement factory in Europe to be incinerated, the Icelandic Recycling Fund and SORPA have decided to send Tetra Pak cartons to Fiskeby Board in Sweden for proper recycling. An independent party will also be appointed to monitor the implementation to ensure adequate recycling.

Shipped to Sweden

As reported Monday, an investigative report by Heimildin found that SORPA – the municipal association for waste management – was shipping recyclable milk cartons to a cement factory in Europe to be incinerated.

After the story broke, the Icelandic Recycling Fund and Sorpa released a public statement saying that they would modify protocols; Tetra Pak cartons would henceforth be sent to the company Fiskeby Board in Sweden to ensure that recycling was carried out correctly and would deliver the expected results.

“The Recycling Fund and SORPA jointly intend to obtain assurance that the recycling party that will from now on receive containers from SORPA will deliver the expected results,” the statement reads. The statement further notes that the decision had been taken following the discovery that Smurfit Kappa, SORPA’s paper recycling partner, could not recycle cartons in its processing plants.

A meeting with Guðlaugur Þór

The press release also notes that representatives from the Icelandic Recycling Fund and SORPA had met with Guðlaug Þór Þórðarson, Minister of the Environment, Energy and Climate, yesterday. The upshot of the meeting was that the Icelandic Recycling Fund and SORPA would appoint an independent party to monitor the implementation and confirm adequate recycling.

“The Recycling Fund has required other service providers, Terra and Íslenska gámafélagið, who have collected the milk cartons for recycling, for confirmation that adequate recycling has taken place abroad. Information is expected to arrive in the coming days.”

The press release concludes by stating that the Icelandic Recycling Fund had recently revised its terms and conditions vis-à-vis the fund’s service providers to ensure traceability and knowledge of the final disposal of the waste covered by the fund.

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 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.

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.


Sorpa to Restructure Operations Following Damning Report

Sorpa - waste management

The waste management company responsible for Reykjavík capital area’s garbage is set to undergo comprehensive restructuring. Sorpa also intends to ask the six municipalities that jointly own the company to guarantee it an ISK 600 million ($4.7m/€4.3m) loan. An internal audit published in December indicates Sorpa is facing significant financial challenges.

The City of Reykjavík recently conducted an internal audit on Sorpa’s planned construction of a biogas plant, which was published last December. The audit found that Sorpa underestimated the cost of the project by ISK 1.4 billion ($10.9m/€10m). The company ’s Board of Directors dismissed Sorpa’s CEO Björn H. Halldórsson last month following another City of Reykjavík report that heavily criticised his work. Other financial issues within the company also came to light, suggesting a grim state of affairs. Mosfellsbær’s mayor stated just last week that “if nothing is done about [Sorpa’s situation], then the company is insolvent at the beginning of March.”

Sorpa’s board of directors met with elected representatives from all six municipalities yesterday to review the company’s difficult financial position and propose a plan of action. According to a press release published after the meeting, the company plans to complete a comprehensive review of its operations by June and undergo restructuring with the help of an ISK 600 million loan. A special task force will be appointed to carry out a detailed audit of the company’s finances, administration, and project management.

“Waste Wagon” Visits Reykjavík Neighbourhoods

toxic waste truck

A special truck will be making the rounds of Reykjavík neighbourhoods to collect electronics and other hazardous waste which often ends up in landfills. The city’s waste collection company Sorpa first organised the initiative last fall in an effort to encourage residents to properly dispose of items that shouldn’t be tossed in grey bins. reported first.

According to Icelandic law, it is illegal to dispose of hazardous waste along with regular trash. Nevertheless, an estimated 150 tonnes of electronic appliances and hazardous waste was buried at Álfsnes, the country’s biggest landfill site, last year. Last fall, the truck collected 1,638kg (3,611lbs) of hazardous waste while making its rounds.

The collection truck will be on the road throughout April and May. It accepts hazardous waste such as batteries, lightbulbs, household appliances, construction materials such as paint and varnish, and more. As always, hazardous waste can also be disposed of at Sorpa’s year-round collection sites.

The truck’s schedule is as follows:

Árbær – Tuesday, May 7, 3.00-8.00pm by Árbæjarlaug

Breiðholt – Tuesday, April 23, 3.00-8.00pm by Breiðholtslaug

Bústaðir/Háleiti – Tuesday, April 16, 3.00-8.00pm by Austurver

Grafarholt/Úlfarsárdalur – Tuesday, April 30, 3.00-8.00pm by the drop-off centre on Þlóðhildarstígur

Grafarvogur – Thursday, May 9, 3.00-8.00pm by Spöngin

Hlíðar – Tuesday, April 11, 3.00-8.00pm by Kjarvalsstaður

Kjalarnes – Thursday, May 2, 3.00-8.00pm by the drop-off centre on Vallargrund

Laugardalur – Tuesday, April 9, 3.00-8.00pm by Laugardalslaug

Miðborg – Wednesday, April 17, 3.00-8.00pm by Sundhöllin

Vesturbær – Monday, April 24, 3.00-8.00pm by Vesturbæjarlaug