Icelanders put about half of their household waste into landfills, which is a much higher proportion than in other Nordic countries, according to RÚV. Municipal zoning plans are meant to strive for improvements in terms of waste issues, but such plans are not always made, nor are they necessarily followed.
The Icelandic National Audit Office covers waste issues in a new report, which reveals that in Sweden, Denmark and Norway, between 0.7 and 2.5 percent of household waste is put into landfills. In those countries, burning waste for energy production is common, but since the cost of electricity in Iceland is low, that kind of practice would not produce energy at competitive prices.
The heavy use of landfills makes recycling here all the more important. The Audit Office points out that all monitoring is lacking regarding making sure that municipalities live up to their duty to make zoning plans to improve waste management, or to ensure that such plans are followed. The Audit Office recommends that the Ministry for the Environment ensure such monitoring be put in place, as well as a clear policy for the municipalities to follow.
Þórir Óskarsson, project manager at the Audit Office told RÚV that an existing policy only lists goals for the country as a whole and fails to put pressure on municipalities which can get away with staying far behind others, trusting that other districts make sure the national goal is reached.
According to the report, municipalities have the right to charge residents for the treatment of waste, but can choose not to do so.
The report states that progress has been made and the use of landfills has decreased from 234 kilos (516 lbs) per person in 2009 to 171 kilos (377 lbs) per person in 2013. Still, we’re far behind our neighbors in this regard.