In the wake of both an EU directive and a homegrown grassroots movement, Iceland’s Parliament is now examining banning plastic bags altogether.
The parliamentary proposal, submitted by the Social Democrats, calls for more than just a ban on plastic bags; it also calls for imported products that contain plastic particles to be clearly labelled as such.
The reasoning outlined in the proposal points out that Icelanders consume roughly 70 million plastic bags each year, and it is estimated that each bag is used for about 25 minutes before being thrown away. It also notes that Italy, France and the US state of California have all issued similar bans.
Closer to home, plastic waste has been a growing problem for a nation so dependent on the sea, and it has sparked a grassroots movement of its own. An EU directive, taken up by Iceland in 2015, already saw the country aiming to reduce its plastic bag use by 80% over a three-year period, but that has not entirely come to fruition.
Last year, Icelanders collected about three tonnes of plastic waste in a single day from one beach area in the northwest. The year before that, over 7,000 Icelanders signed a petition calling upon the Minister for the Environment to ban plastic bags, indicating widespread popular support for the current proposal.
In Iceland, a parliamentary proposal is not the same thing as a bill; proposals outline goals to achieve. It would take an actual bill to detail how that goal is reached. A vote on this proposal is still pending.