The Icelandic Environment Agency is planning to take measures to drastically reduce plastic use in an effort to minimise its negative environmental effects. To that end, they’ve announced a new project in cooperation with the Ministry for the Environment and Natural Resources.

The project is split into two parts. The first part is an initiative called “Turn the Tap on,” which aims to educate visitors to the country about the folly of buying water in non-reusable packaging such as plastic bottles.

Iceland’s tap water is among the cleanest in the world, so purchasing bottled water is totally unnecessary. Also, the use and transport of plastic bottles have a negative impact on the environment. The agency aims to create educational material on the topic in cooperation with various businesses, non-governmental organizations and municipalities.

The second part of the project is a push for greater public education on the excess reliance on single-use plastic. This part will focus on education for the web and social media, with the message “Go reusable” front and centre.

The project is part of the “Saman gegn sóun” (“United Against Waste”) policy for the prevention of excessive waste, put forth by Environmental Minister Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson. The policy is mainly focused on reducing the creation of waste by the year 2027. It will place special emphasis on moderation and frugality.

The Ministry for the Environment and Natural Resources is allocating ISK 3.5 million to the project. The project is also connected with the United Nations’ worldwide goals for sustainable development, a call for action by the countries of the world to be more responsible in the areas of consumption and production. 

A Good Climate For Climate Change

Iceland has seen a great deal of increased public awareness and effort to reduce plastic use this year. The Plastic-Free September challenge — now in its second year — has been a resounding success, seeing a huge increase in participation.

“It’s been going well and we’re positive it’s having an effect,” says Elsa Eysteinsdóttir, one of the initiative’s organizers. “We’ve seen a variety of companies joining the effort, each of them participating in their own way. For example, Landsspítalinn [the national hospital] published a social media post where they said they ‘formally celebrated’ Plastic-Free September.”

“There’s also been a lot of media attention, in printed media, on television and the radio, and we’re thrilled about that,” she added.

Additionally, the happy news came out recently that plastic bag sales are down this year, and more and more so-called ‘bag stations’ are being set up, giving people easy access to sustainable alternatives to plastic.