Plastics do not biodegrade in the environment, but rather break down into smaller pieces. Oftentimes plastic ends up breaking down into what is known as microplastics, which are particles with a diameter of 5 mm or less. Microplastics pose a threat because of their small size, specifically because they small enough to enter organisms by way of drinking water and food sources. Microplastics have breached the food chain and have even made their way into our bodies.
Loose plastics can easily make their way into the oceans. We have probably all seen the images of animals ensnared by plastics that have made their way out to sea. It is critical that we do whatever is in our power to keep plastic from making its way into the oceans.
Another compelling reason is that plastics are made out of oil, which is a non-renewable resource. Oil is a vital substance and we rely on it for a number reasons, and for that reason we should not expend it on unnecessary items like making disposable lids for coffee.
If you’d like to know more, take a look at this TED Talk on what really happens when we throw plastic away.
Plastics can be divided into sorted containers, which pay a return deposit fee, and plastics that pay no return deposit fee. Examples of plastics that pay no return deposit fee include garden chairs, laundry baskets and snow sleds. These kinds of plastics need to be taken to Sorpa recycling centers (or the corresponding facility in your community) — unless they fit in your plastics recycling bin.
Used plastic containers must be cleaned and dried before placing in the plastics recycling bin. Otherwise the item is removed when it reaches the recycling center and rerouted to a landfill. That is why we always encourage people to sort and make sure their plastics are both clean and dry.
For more information on plastic recycling please visit the Sorpa website.
In Iceland, the vast majority of plastic bottles and other containers are pressed into bales, loaded into a shipping container and shipped to companies abroad like Stenarecycling in Sweden. There the plastic is either recycled or incinerated to create energy.
You can place plastics either in neighborhood collection containers or other specially designated containers. Different municipalities organize collection containers in different ways, but in many places plastics go in the blue bins while in others they are green. Check with your local municipal office if you are not sure.
It is up to various municipalities around Iceland to organize waste collection and this includes fulfilling the county’s objectives for recycling. Please contact your local municipal offices or check their websites for more information on recycling programs.