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Katharina Hauptmann's picture

When thinking of Iceland, most people think of the pristine and breathtaking nature. That is of course also encouraged and promoted by the tourism industry showing Iceland as a natural and pure destination.

Then I saw the pictures of photographer Julien Joly the newsletter of UNRIC, The United Nations Regional Information Centre.

The Frenchman was visiting the remote beaches of Hornstrandir, Iceland’s northernmost peninsula, situated in the West Fjords, to the north of the Jökulfirðir and to the northwest of Drangajökull, when he stumbled upon a lot of plastic littering the beach.

Iceland’s nature is mostly pristine and undisturbed, so this was a rather unusual sight.

We all know about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (and if you didn’t then educate yourself here and other debris gyres roaming the ocean, but now it seems like the marine litter has also reached the shores of Iceland. Nei takk!

I cannot even begin to think about the consequences for the marine life, this is just terrible.

It is easy to just not think about the garbage vortex and not worry because, well, that is all just somewhere out of sight on the oceans.

But when the debris reaches land, our land, it becomes suddenly real.

I mean, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is now the size of Texas and there are propositions to find a name for this ‘8th continent’. This is so sad…

This brings me back to a topic I wrote about a few years ago, recycling in Iceland.

A little update on the matter is in order, I guess. Since said article, there has been a small improvement: citizens can now order new waste bins which collect paper and plastic. So that makes it easier for people to separate their waste, a great step into the right directions.

The UNRIC article also states that a European citizen on average uses 198 disposable plastic bags a year. That is an absolutely insane number! According to the latest figures, Icelanders use a combined 70 million plastic bags per year

Every time I go food shopping I take bags with me so I don’t have to buy plastic bags. I really don’t want to reach my annual 198.

But there is still room for improvement. I am still dreaming of bottle banks set up in every neighborhood and supermarkets taking responsibility for waste reduction.

Yes, Bónus, Krónan, Hagkaup, 10/11,  Nóatun and so on, I am talking to you!

In my home country of Germany, supermarkets are obliged to take in plastic wrappings of the products they sell therefore they make their suppliers wrap their products environmentally friendlier and go easy on the plastics. Supermarkets have power so this move was a great idea.

I hope people start thinking more about sustainability and use less plastic- hello, Utopia, my old friend!

But remember: nobody wants their beaches littered with garbage.

Katharina Hauptmann - katha.hauptmann@gmail.com

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Views expressed here are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Iceland Review.