A taskforce appointed by Iceland’s Ministry for the Environment has now put forth a ‘plastics action plan’ which proposes new ways in which the country might reduce its plastic usage, improve plastic recycling, and deal with plastic waste in the surrounding ocean, RÚV reports.
One of the proposals is that more effort should be made to inform tourists that it is unnecessary to purchase bottled water in Iceland and to install drinking fountains at popular tourist sites. That way, visitors could have easy access to water and be able to refill their own reusable water bottles. The committee has also proposed banning single-use utensils at restaurants says taskforce chair Laufey Helga Magnúsdóttir, and to tax both these and single-use packaging.
The taskforce’s proposals come in the wake of the European Union’s recent directive regarding the reduction of plastic. Per this directive, disposable plastic items such as cotton swabs, cutlery, plates, and straws will be phased out over the coming year. Laufey says that there are a number of good, cost-efficient alternatives to plastic and that Iceland needs to make the effort to align itself with the plastic reduction initiatives put forth by the United Nations and European Union.
Although there is still much to do in this respect, Laufey says that steps are already being taken in Iceland to address plastic usage. For one, plastic packaging is now subject to a processing tax: people pay for the cost of recycling an item in plastic packaging when they purchase it. And while she thinks it is always possible to use less plastic, she thinks it’s clear that plastic will continue to be used, as it is, for instance, an effective way to store food. As such, it would be difficult to get rid of plastic without having the effect of increasing food waste, she says, which is a major climate issue in and of itself.
The plastics taskforce will continue to propose changes to laws regarding plastics, conduct research, and encourage innovation. Laufey says one of the next things that will be important for Iceland to do on this issue is to begin recycling more of its plastic in Iceland, instead of sending it to other countries to be recycled there.