From Iceland — Give Trash Another Chance

Give Trash Another Chance

Published January 25, 2016

Give Trash Another Chance
Rebecca Conway Hrefna Björg Gylfadóttir
Photo by
Páll Hilmarsson

Everyone wants to recycle. Especially in 2016. It was your New Year’s resolution, remember? Sure you do. But, it can get confusing. “Where do the jam jars go?” “Is there a special thing for cork?” “What do I do with all these batteries?” “And should I really be rinsing out toilet paper to stow with old Fréttablaðiðs?”

Don’t you fret! We’ve made you this handy guide to recycling in Iceland. You should totally cut it out and stick on your fridge for future reference.

Cardboard, paper, beverage cartons

  • Rinse beverage cartons and remove residue from the cardboard, then compress them as much as possible to save space.
  • Put them in the appropriate containers at drop-off centres and SORPA recycling centres, or in paper recycling bins found at some residences.

Plastic bags, plastic containers, plastic packaging, trays, even Styrofoam is okay now (not really though. Everyone hates styrofoam. Don’t buy stuff with styrofoam, OK?)

  • Empty the items completely, and compress them to save space.
  • Put them in the appropriate containers at drop-off and SORPA recycling centres. Reykjavík city is also goin’ big and offering plastic recycling containers for homes now – see for more info.

Porcelain and glassware (bottles, jars, etc.)

  • Clean or empty them as best as possible.
  • Bring them to SORPA recycling centres, and deposit them in the glass recycling containers. Three drop-off centres in Reykjavík currently have containers for glass, as well.

Glass bottles, plastic bottles, aluminium cans, any deposit beverage bottle

  • Empty them of contents. Do not compress them, even if you’re really good at crushing beercans against your forehead. (Ok, maybe do that one more time).
  • Take them to a drop-off centre or a recycling centre (see, and put them in the Skátarnir containers, for no refund. You can also take them to Endurvinnslan hf if you want them krónur.

Clothing, working electrical appliances, household goods, knick-knacks, etc.

  • Separate clothing from other goods, and place each in a closed bag or box.
  • Bring the bag/box to one of SORPA’s recycling centres. Put clothing in the Red Cross (Rauði krossinn) container and other goods in the Good Shepherd (Góði Hirðirinn) container.

Hazardous materials (batteries, spray cans, paint), light bulbs, CFLs, broken electrical appliances

  • Separate hazardous materials from electrical appliances. Don’t try to eat them.
  •  Go to a SORPA recycling centre. Deposit hazardous materials in a hazardous material container, and electrical appliances in an electrical appliance container.

Metal objects, aluminium trays, aluminium foil, jar lids, nails, food cans, etc.

  • Remove residue from food containers.
  • Put smaller metal items directly into the grey container or bring them to a SORPA recycling centre.

Organic waste: leftover food, paper towels, diapers, animal waste

  • Either put waste into a plastic bag, or just throw it directly into the grey bin.

Oh! And you’re supposed to take candles to the recycling centre, too! Weird, right?

For more information and rules about recycling, go to And many thanks to Erla Hlín Helgadóttir of SORPA for her help and suggestions.

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