New waste sorting system

Reykjavík City implements a new and harmonized waste sorting system in collaboration with neighboring municipalities. It is mandatory to categorize household waste into four groups according to the act on the circular economy, which took effect in January 2023. This is a significant environmental issue, as proper sorting can reduce waste and enable the recycling of valuable resources instead of disposing of them.  

Four categories

The four categories are: Paper and cardboard, plastic packaging, food waste, and mixed waste. 


The four categories do not necessarily mean that people will have four bins at their home. 


The main goal is to add as few bins for residents as possible.


Alongside these changes, bins will be emptied more frequently. Paper and plastic will now be emptied every two weeks, compared to the previous three-week schedule.

Which bins will I get?

Detached houses: For homes with three or fewer residents, two split bins will be provided. One will be for mixed waste and food waste, and the other for paper and plastic.


For homes with four or more residents, three bins will be provided. As before, one bin will be for mixed waste and food waste, a blue bin for paper, and a green bin for plastic.


Multi-unit buildings: Larger multi-unit buildings will not use split bins, only whole bins. Gray bins for mixed waste will be replaced with bins for recyclable materials.


In small multi-unit buildings with three or fewer apartments, split bins will be used for mixed waste and food waste, and blue and green bins for plastic and paper.

Do you need more or larger bins?

Everyone needs to sort into four categories at home, but residents can influence the number of bins. The number of bins is increasing where there were no recycling containers before. At a minimum, you can have two double bins in a private dwelling with three or fewer residents.

What if I need to modify my waste bin enclosure?

Detached houses: If you need to install or expand a shelter, you must obtain the consent of the adjacent landowner if the location is closer to the property boundary than three meters. Waste bin enclosures must not open onto municipal land.

When setting up a waste bin enclosure, keep in mind that access should be easy and safe. The access route should be short, and there is an additional fee applied if the route is longer than 15 meters.

Multi-unit buildings: You need to apply for a building permit to the Building Commissioner if you intend to build a waste bin enclosure or shelter on a multi-unit property.

Bin size

Type  Height (mm) Width (mm) Depth (mm)
140 L 1100 505 555
240 L 1169 580 724
360 L 1150 590 880
660 L 1225 1255 775
The 240-liter bin is the most common size, as with split bins and blue and green bins for paper and plastic.


Want to know more?

The public has long called for separate collection of organic waste and harmonization of waste sorting systems in the capital area. This implies improved service for residents. All general information about the new sorting system and food waste collection can be found on Sorpa's website.

Questions and answers about the new sorting system

Do I need to have more than one bin?

Yes, under the new Act, each household must collect food leftovers, paper, and plastic. In addition, there must be a bin for mixed waste. There are therefore bins or compartments for four categories in total.

How much space do the split bins take?

Split bins are the same size as the gray bins for mixed waste that have been used in Reykjavík, 240 liters and 58 centimeters wide. The bins are divided in a 60/40 ratio. The smaller compartment is 96 liters and the larger compartment is 144 liters.

If the bins are lined up side by side, we recommend leaving 10 centimeters between them.

Can I request a split bin for paper and plastic instead of having two separate bins?

Yes, if you live in a private dwelling, you can request a split bin. If the request is received before the bin swap due to the new sorting system takes place, you will receive it at the same time as the bins are swapped. If the request comes later, it will be processed as quickly as possible after the bins are swapped in the district.

Is a split bin for paper and plastic sufficient for more than three residents?

No, a split bin probably won't suffice for households with more than three residents. It's important to understand that if residents compact paper or plastic in the bin, so it does not fall out when the bin is inverted during emptying into the waste collection vehicle, the bin will be left behind unemptied.

How many residences can use the same brown bin for food waste?

The brown bin is expected to serve up to six apartments, but this can vary depending on the number of people in the household. If the brown bin fills up, you can order more bins.

How often will food waste be collected?

Organic kitchen waste will be emptied every other week, which is a common frequency abroad and has been successful in pilot projects here in Iceland.

Where do I get a paper bag for food waste?

Each household in the metropolitan area gets a pack of paper bags delivered when the new bin for food waste and a basket for the bags are distributed. There are 80 bags in one pack of paper bags, which should last for two to three months.

When the bags run out, you can initially pick them up for free at major grocery stores and the Reykjavík City Service Center.

Hvernig geng ég frá matarleifum í bréfpoka?

Láta sósu og vökva renna af matvælum áður en þau eru sett í pokann. Þannig haldast matarleifarnar þurrar og pokinn endist lengur.

Ef henda á matarleifum úr ísskáp gera það um leið og farið er út með pokann, ekki þegar nýr poki er tekinn í notkun. Þannig endist pokinn lengur.

Loka pokanum vel þegar hann er settur út í tunnu.

Passa að brúna tunnan sé ekki þar sem er sól, smá trekkur kælir hana niður.


Can I use a cornstarch bag for food waste?

No, we recommend not using cornstarch bags for food waste as they break down poorly at Gaja, the compost and gas production plant, and tend to wrap around the machines that process the waste.

Can I dispose of garden waste in the brown bin or the food waste compartment?

No, garden waste should be delivered to the Sorpa recycling centers. The reception is free for up to two cubic meters of material. You can put a bouquet of flowers or other similar household waste in the bin.

What should be done with metals and glass?

Metals and glass should be sorted separately and delivered to drop-off center or recycling centers. Glass is collected at almost all drop-off centers in Reykjavík. Containers for metals are at drop-off centers in Árbær, Norðlingaholt, Selás, and Ártúnsholt and also at the deep container sites at Laugalækur, Skúlagata, and Freyjutorg/Óðinsgata.

Containers for metals will be added to other drop-off centers in the new year along with changes being made to these centers.

When will the waste collection fees be changed?

The waste collection fees in Reykjavík will be reviewed once the new system has been implemented and the levy will change in the fall.

What will the new fee schedule look like?

The waste collection fee in Reykjavík depends on the number and size of bins and waste categories. It can be assumed that the fee for recyclables will be lower in the new fee schedule as the Icelandic Recycling Fund pays for the collection of packaging waste from paper, cardboard, and plastic.