Circular is the word of the day and the concept of the future
Anna Worthington De Matos has been a prominent figure in the Icelandic environmental movement since moving here from England. Having founded the Munasafn Tool Library in 2018 – which has landed in Hafnarhaus after a few relocations – Anna has been at the forefront of the circular economy movement.
The idea behind a tool library is simple: libraries lend books; tool libraries lend tools.
Despite this seemingly simple and straightforward idea, Anna’s work is sometimes met with inertia. “There is a huge lack of understanding of what we do and a lack of understanding what a circular economy is,” she says. From going through the Kafkaesque process of communicating with city officials to securing funding for the operations, she knows all too well the frustration of bureaucracy.
Sharing is caring
In the last months, Anna has been preparing for a new phase in the library’s life. In between running the tool library, the non-profit organisation Hringrásarsetur Íslands (Circular Centre of Iceland), and a self-checkout circular library in three locations, Anna has now secured an investor to join the team.
The investor, Daniel Haltia, has a background in circular business development with IKEA and will be joining the circular centre’s operations as a chief circular economy officer. “His role is mainly helping us find funding and make connections,” Anna says. “I’ve been meeting with him virtually and finally met him in person at the Loop Circular Conference in Copenhagen the other day,” Anna tells the Grapevine upon her return from the late-April event. “He understands my vision and sees what we’re trying to do. If you’re an investor, you need to check a lot of boxes before I bring you on,” she says jokingly.
The whole deal behind the tool library is to create a community that’s willing to share more and emphasise usership as opposed to ownership. It’s an idealistic notion, but Anna has realistic expectations and believes in change. “There is no alternative. Either we end up in a Wall-E world where there’s trash everywhere and fat rich people live in space,” she muses. “Or we’re going to end up in a society where we care for each other and respect the limited resources.”
The responsibility for addressing the climate crisis is all too often passed onto individuals. While individuals can and should adopt environmentally friendlier lifestyles, Anna says change needs to be instigated top-down. “I think there’s a lot of policies in place that need to be changed to accommodate this new concept of circularity.”
“Don’t get me wrong,” Anna clarifies, “I understand the necessity of money. If you need to use a drill every day, by all means, buy a drill. But why are we importing cheap and trashy products to Iceland that break in six months and end up in the landfill?”
A homemade solution
Asked whether local communities should start similar lending schemes, Anna encourages it but identifies a common point of contention. Again, it’s about ownership. “The main issue with peer-to-peer lending,” Anna says, “is that there has to be an understanding that by donating the item, you transfer the ownership to the community. It’s complicated. Emotions are complicated.”
In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the city library, Munasafnið is offering free membership giveaways which will run at least into the end of May. You only need to visit the downtown city library and take a picture of your library card, put it on Instagram with the exclusive Hringrásarsafnið filter and tag the Munasafn Tool Library and the Borgarbókasafn city library in your story.
Hringrásarsetur operates a monthly repair café where people can bring broken items and repair them. You can volunteer with them and learn the tricks of the trade.
Follow along with the Neighbourhood Watch series right here to learn about other community initiatives striving to make Reykjavík — and Iceland — a better place to be.
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