OSC Recycling & Sustainability Service Group

A reflective blog exploring recycling & sustainability initiatives at the Overseas School of Colombo

Earth Day 2018 at OSC Message

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A simple poster to remind the community of simple steps to not contribute to the enormous problem of  plastic and solid domestic wast pollution.

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Written by ianlockwood

2018-04-27 at 7:22 AM

Plastic Recycling in Colombo: A 2018 Update

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Plastic, plastic and more plastic!

Plastic is a non-biodegradable material that is being accumulated in the world today in disturbing and alarming quantities (see the Guardian’s 2017 article for an update). Although plastic is an important resource in our daily lives, its end product contributes seriously to the broader problem of mismanaged Solid Domestic Waste (SDW). Since plastic it not biodegradable, the way in which it is disposed is important, as if it is incorrectly disposed, it can cause environmental pollution, along with other health related issues. Other than reducing the consumption of plastic (the best solution) one of the alternatives to the incorrect disposal of plastic, is recycling the plastic. However, this method does not reduce the amount of plastic that there is in the world, and the recycling process usually involves a lot energy. Nevertheless, there are other comparatively efficient ways to deal with the management of plastic waste, but this article focuses mainly on recycling as a potential solution.

The issue regarding the management of plastic is of global significance – it is challenging to effectively and efficiently dispose of plastic, mainly because most plastics are non-biodegradable – they will remain on earth in the same form for a long time – and because humans have become excessively dependent on plastic. Moreover, this hinders the chance of people reducing the amount of plastic that they use, inevitably forcing re-using and recycling to appear as more feasible methods for the management of plastic.

Viridis Field Visit

In March 2018 the DP Geography class visited the Viridis plastic recycling center in Horona Sri Lanka to learn more about PET and other plastic recycling. Viridis has a collection point on our campus and we took the accumulated plastic items with us. After we had arrived at the center, we introduced ourselves to the people there and handed over the recyclable plastic waste that we had brought from our school. Viridis addresses the issue of plastic on a national scale – they collect plastic from all around Sri Lanka and bring it to their factory, where they recycle it. Their vision as a company is “to be the most successful and respected Leader in waste management industry in Sri Lanka by implementing, developing and maintenance of innovative and sustainable waste collection and recycling systems while upgrading the living conditions of society.”

Mr. Nilantha Gamage, from the management team, gave us a tour of the Viridis facility. He started by providing us with statistics related to what they were doing at the center. He told us Viridis trucks and teams collect and process approximately 100 tons of plastic waste a month. It is estimated that Sri Lanka imported about 15,000 tons of PET (Polyethylene terephthalate) during a similar period of time (see Chrishanthi Christopher’s  Sunday Times article). Thus, depending on statistics for the country, Viridis is only processing a small percentage of all of the plastic being produced and consumed in Sri Lanka. Mr. Gamage also addressed some of the economic issues that they face while recycling the plastic. For example, he spoke to us about how people prefer to use virgin plastic (plastic that is produced new from the petroleum refining process), therefore the selling prices of non-virgin plastic (plastic that has been recycled) in the market would remain higher than that of virgin plastics – because virgin plastics are in demand and more people are buying it – hence it is slightly difficult for them to sell the plastic that they recycle.

Different types of plastic used by consumers. Most of this is recycled at Viridis (source: Quora)

Mr. Gamage then directed us outside where we observed how they handle the plastic in the Viridis recycling plant.

  • Step 1:They started off by separating the plastic according to its color, after which they would put the plastic bottles into a machine which would remove the sticker around it, as well as the bottle caps.
  • Step 2: Following this was the shredding process, which was also done by a large, noisy machine. However, if the plastic was too big to be shredded – like a plastic garbage bin – then a Viridis worker manually chop the plastic into smaller chunks before shredding it (The shredded plastic looks like colored plastic rice grains).
  • Step 3: Even though the plastic was shredded, it was still dirty. Therefore it was put into a tub of water, washed and finally dried in an electric oven.
  • Step 4: The end of the drying process was followed by the beginning of the packing process, and it is then ready to be exported to buyers. Unfortunately, it is at this point, that they face the economic challenge – the price for recycled plastics is very as a consequence of relatively low crude oil prices. at which they are selling the plastic is low and they are barely breaking even.

While we were exploring the Viridis recycling plant, I observed that the plant consistently incorporates the use of a lot of energy in their machinery (the shredder, the machine that removes the bottle caps and the stickers as well as the oven), thus I wondered how much energy they consume in a month. I approached Mr. Gamage and asked him, and he told me that they consume roughly 8,000 units of energy in a month: which is a lot of energy; supporting the fact that even though recycling is considered an effective way to handle plastic waste, it still consumes a lot of energy in the process, which makes it a slightly inefficient process!

Impact of China’s Plastic Import Ban

Many high-income countries (Europe and North American notably) used to export their plastic waste for recycling in China. However, in 2017 China banned other the import of plastic waste because they did not want to be the “world’s garbage dump” (Freytas-Tamura). This affects many high-income counties as the volume of plastic in their recycling centers is high and China has always been a good market. Hence, they are struggling to effectively manage the plastic. Consequently, this reflects how much people in the European region depend on plastic and also, countries do not want to be responsible for handling plastic waste.

The John Keels group has also recently taken the initiative to address the management of plastic and recycling plastic. Moreover, their website is very insightful, as it shows its users the exactly where they can drop off their plastic waste, and it simultaneously spreads awareness if it reaches the right audience. It is possible to get more information regarding this by visiting their website.

Our trip to the Viridis plastic recycling center was insightful, not only because we had the opportunity to see how plastic is recycled, but also because it shaped our understanding of the rising global concern of effectively managing plastic and the problems associated with it.

REFERENCES

Christopher, Chrishanthi.  “Reusable bags diktat doubles plastic imports” Sunday Times. 12 February 2017. Web.

Fazlulhaq, Nadia. “War against plastic waste hampered by don’t-care public.” Sunday Times. 29 June 2014. Web.

Freytas-Tamura, Kimko. “Plastics Pile up as China Refuses to Take the West’s Recycling.” New York Times. January 2018. Web.

Laville, Sandra and Matthew Taylor. “Bottling it: A million bottles a minute: world’s plastic binge ‘as dangerous as climate change’”. The Guardian. 28 June 2017. Web.

Quora. “What are some types of plastic?” Web.

 

Article by © Devin Amalean with edits and additions from his DP Geography teacher

photos by the author

Written by ianlockwood

2018-04-24 at 11:58 AM

E-Waste Recycling Efforts in Sri Lanka: A Field Study Report

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E - Waste 1

E-Waste field study visit.

Electronic waste, otherwise known as E-Waste , involves the discarding of electronic devices. As the world is developing, the growth of electronic devices is increasing and therefore also the amount of e-waste. But with this, comes many complications to the environment. This includes:

  • Decreasing resources
  • Release of harmful toxins (ex: mercury, brominated dioxin and lead)
  • Increasing solid waste dump spaces

Hence, the importance of managing e-waste is very important especially with rising demands on electronics. In 2014 alone, there was 41.8 million tons of electronics discarded worldwide with an expected 49.8 million tons to be produced in 2018. However, only 15-20% of total e-waste is recycled worldwide. (See more.) (Leblanc)

Exploring in a canyon of old TV sets and computers destined for recycling at the Ceylon Waste Management Plant in Horona.

Sri Lanka is in an even worse state. Most e-waste is dumped with regular trash and is not separated. So its toxins are disposed improperly but is also recycled with regular plastic items. For example: children’s plastic toys are being manufactured using recycled e-waste in which some are contaminated with toxic flame retardant chemicals. (Hettiarachchi)

In order to avoid such issues of growing e-waste in dumps (such as the Meethotamulla garbage dump) and the aid in the possible future of recovering resources such as gold, copper and other valuable materials, Sri Lanka has investments in many e-waste recycling plants.

On the 12th of March 2018, the DP1 Geography students at the Overseas School of Colombo visited an e-waste management plant owned by Ceylon Waste Management. This is one of Sri Lanka’s largest e-waste factories and is aided in funding by Singer electronics. This factory receives approximately 1000 electronic pieces a day from local suppliers and exports most of its recycled materials to Europe (including the Netherlands and other European contries). In this plant, waste is treated in multiple ways. Some electronics are tested for reuse or resale. However, majority of electronics are too old to have value. Therefore, most items are salvaged for plastics, cathode tubes, copper, gold and other valuable metals.

This recycling plant is one of the first steps in a more sustainable Sri Lanka, helping reclaim valuable items while preventing environmental pollution and wasted resources.

So what can you do?

  • REDUCE: Try not to buy unnecessary electronics. Instead of buying a DVD player, use the one on a computer you may already have.
  • REUSE: If you have any e-waste that still works, resell it or give it for reuse.
  • RECYCLE: If you have any e-waste, do not throw it away. Most places in Sri Lanka have a local scrap dealers as a middle person to help manage e-waste. If you sell your e-waste, there’s a chance your waste may go to a recycling plant such as the Ceylon Waste Management factory. But if not, some value from the waste would still be recovered (and you can earn some money from this at least too.)

Works Cited

Ceylon Waste Management Co. Interview. 12 Mar. 2018.

“Electronic Waste.” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 12 Mar. 2018. Web. Accessed 21 Mar. 2018.

Hettiarachchi, Kumudini. “Experts warn of e-waste being dumped together with garbage.” The Sunday Times Sri Lanka, 7 May 2017.  Web. Accessed 21 Mar. 2018.

Leblanc, Rick. “E-Waste Recycling Facts and Figures.” The Balance, 15 Mar. 2018. Web.  Accessed 21 Mar. 2018.

Warakaptiya, Kasun. “E-waste: Turn pollution into prosperity.” The Sunday Times Sri Lanka, 31 Dec. 2017.Web. Accessed 21 Mar. 2018.

 

Article by Sarah Shea, Class of 2019 DP Geography class

Pictures by Lukas Hettiaratchi, Class of 2019 DP Geography class

Written by ianlockwood

2018-03-22 at 12:27 PM

Posted in E-Waste, Guest Articles

Recycling Paper in the OSC and Pelawatte community: A 2018 Update

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Pelawatte Scrap Dealer who buys OSC paper ad cardboard. Photos & collage by Dominic & Maha

As our world is developing, solid domestic waste is becoming a significant problem. Solid domestic waste (SDW) is which is garbage from industries. The production of solid domestic waste contributes a lot to air and land pollution. One common type of solid waste is paper. According to The World Counts 50% of business related waste is composed of paper. In the United States alone, 12.1 trillion sheets of paper are used every year, just for office purposes (World Counts) . That is A LOT of trees.

At the Overseas School of Colombo, there is a tradition of recycling as much of our dry waste as possible (especially paper and cardboard). Since 2005 the service group called Recycling and Sustainability (Train to Sustain) has been working with the OSC community to reduce its ecological footprint by focusing on recycling, solid waste reductions and energy saving initiatives. This group has provided each classroom in OSC  with a box to put recyclables. Every Thursday the R&S/TTS group goes around the school and collects the recyclable items. This recyclables are sorted and then transported in the school pick-up truck to a scrap dealer in Pelawatte to be sold. The scrap dealer is located 400 meters away from the OSC campus (see previous posts with maps of its location). The earnings are used to support efforts to educe the ecological footprint of the school. Plastic (mainly PET) is collected and taken to the Viridis recycling plant in Horona,

SCRAP DEALER VISIT 2018

As part of our unit on resources and solid waste management, the DP Geography class visited several Colombo-based recyclers and scrap dealers. Upon arriving at the local Pelawatte scrap dealer DP 1’s geography class of 2019 (which includes Devin, Dominic, Jordan, Maha, and Sarah), led by Mr. Ian Lockwood , got an insight on what the Recycling and Sustainability service group embark on every Thursday during their service hours. Analogous to the Recycling and Sustainability service group’s ultimate goal of reducing the ecological footprint of the OSC community, the aim of this article is to raise awareness for paper management in the OSC community and to ultimately inspire those affiliated with the school to follow in the footsteps of the former generations of recyclers at OSC and take action against the rising solid waste management crisis that is still ongoing in Sri Lanka.

My first impression of the scrap dealer was that he processed more assets than he actually had the space! There were piles and piles of old refrigerators and vehicle parts lying around the outside of his shop. However, to my amazement, he still had enough room in his office (a recycled shipping container) to take in waste materials such as paper, cardboard, aluminum, and copper all at varying prices (prices in the table below) .

Scrap Dealer 2018 prices

Although the amount of money received on our part and the size of the contribution by our group to the scrap dealer was  minimal, any initiative whether large or small helps to redue the ecological footprint the OSC community . What the field visit to the scrap dealer (and subsequently the Viridis and Ceylon Waste Management company) showed us is that individuals in Sri Lanka are taking actions to help control the damage of solid waste. Through the recycling initiatives the Overseas School of Colombo is on its ways to being more of a solution that a cause of the problem.

 

WORKS CITED

John Keells. Plastic Cycle. Web.

Article by Maha Salman & Dominic Harding, Environmentalists & OSC Geography class 0f 2019 students

Written by ianlockwood

2018-03-22 at 12:01 PM

Recycling CFL Bulbs in Colombo

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Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFLs) were introduced with much hype because of their energy efficiency and longer lives. Unfortunately, they are produced using a variety of dangerous elements including mercury. If they are not recycled properly, they can be hazardous to human health. The mercury in them is the most significant concern. Here in Sri Lanka I have seen old CFLs in rubbish bins and amongst smoldering fires of mixed household waste!

Thankfully there are options to recycle CFLs here in Sri Lanka. In fact Sri lanka was the first country in South Asia to set up a CFL recycling program. The Orange company has an innovative program to recycle CFLS. They collect in many lighting and electrical shops around Colombo. At our local level, consumers can take their used bulbs down to Mr. Gunatilaka. He has been taking bulbs that the RS/TTS program collects on the OSC campus.

Location of CFL recycling options + the scrap dealer who buys paper and cardboard.

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REFERENCES & FURTHER READING

Bandara, Hansani. “The CFL bulb: A double edged sword.” Sunday Times. 25 March 2012. Web.

“Compact Fluorescent Bulbs.” Wikipedia. (a fascinating account of their origins, design and technical aspects). Web.

“Sri Lanka becomes first country in South Asia to recycle compact fluorescent lamps.” EcoBuisness. 12 August 2015. Web.

 

 

Written by recycling1011

2017-10-21 at 9:12 AM

A New Year of OSC’s R&S(TTS): 2017-18

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R&amp;S_group_1(09_17)

The 2017-18 Semester I Recycling & Sustainability/ Train to Sustain team with dedicated OSC students from the Maldives, Sri Lanka, India, the United States and China.

The 2017-18 school year is now well underway. The Recycling & Sustainability group has a new crop of participants but steady leadership with Aashika Jain and Aryaman Satish continuing as student leaders. This year there is good group of motivated participants with a significant number of Grade 8 (MYP III) students. We remain committed to our goal of reducing OSC’s ecological footprint while looking at other aspects of sustainability to address.

Globally, 2017 has witnessed unprecedented natural disasters, many of which may be linked to human-induced climate change. There have been hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico, floods and droughts across the world (including here in Sri Lanka), and raging fires in North America. All of these environmental issues have human dimensions both in the cause and consequences of the disaster. In a significant development  China has decided to ban the import of recycled plastic. This has serious consequences to small countries like Sri Lanka and large countries such as the USA that depend on China to send their recycled plastic to. Exactly how this impacts the recycling industry here and if it results in more waste plastic being untreated is yet to be seen.

The local and national challenge of solid waste management remains a significant concern.  The Meethotamulla dump collapse on April 14th 2017 brought the issue into the limelight here in Sri Lanka. There was growing public resolve that something be done. The government’s Central Environment Authority (CEA) ordered a ban on a variety of plastic bags as of September 1st  but this has not been successfully implemented. There is confusion about the ban and as of now you will see most commercial establishments generously giving out plastic bags. There are proposals to dump waste near Puttalam but these do not address the root problem of actually reducing the inputs.

Here are on campus we are exploring several initiatives to further reduce the campus’ ecological footprint.

  • Better separate and deal with food waste. One idea is to invest in a bio-digester. We have hesitated to push for this solution because we don’t see commitment to having a maintenance employee assigned to take care of the job.
  • Do a better job with recycling e-waste. The student leaders are looking a running a CAS Project that identifies a better way to deal with electronic waste. One thought it is that if we find a place to deal with it the school could become a community center for people to bring e-waste to. UNDP and Dialog have ideas on recycling e-waste in Sri Lanka.
  • Raise awareness on the campus. In particular, about using bins to segregate waste better.

*text & images by RS&S faculty supervisor Ian Lockwood

REFERENCES & FURTHER READING

“China tries to keep foreign rubbish out.” The Economist. 23 August 2017. Web.

Christopher, Chrishanthi. “Drowning in waste: Garbage problems out of control. Sunday Times. 19 June 2016. Web.

Christopher, Chrishanthi. “Measures in the bag to cut vast polythene waste at supermarkets.” Sunday Times. 6 August 2017. Web.

Christopher, Chrishanthi. “Plastic industry claims and lobbying intensify, but regulator insists ban stays.” Sunday Times. 20 August 2017. Web.

Hettiarachchi, Kumudini. “Playing football with Colombo’s garbage.” Sunday Times. 14 May 2017. Web.

Kotelawala, Himal. “Polythene Ban: Should We Celebrate Just Yet?” Roar. 13 July 2017. Web.

Jayawardana, Sandun. “Govt. waste deep in its (mis)management and disposal.” Sunday Times. 26 June 2017. Web. (has Buddhika from Viridis in it)

Nafeel, Nushka. “Banning Plastic.” Daily News. 14 September 2017. Web.

“Polythene Ban Goodbye for Ever? Or Only a Temporary Measure?” Sunday Observer. 10 September 2017. Web.

 

Written by recycling1011

2017-10-20 at 3:17 PM

2016-17 Recycling & Sustainability Initiatives In Review

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The following graph highlights amounts of paper, cardboard and plastic recycled by OSC’s recycling & sustainability service project between 2008 and 2017. These resources are collected and sorted by students during our Thursday afternoon service block. We then take them in the school pickup to our neighborhood scrap dealer where the paper and cardboard is sold and weighed. We also collect plastic, batteries, cartridges, but we do not get paid significantly for these. Glass and metals are also collected but our numbers are not significant. Prices for recycled paper and card board have roughly stayed the same during this period (1kg of card board sells for 10 LKR and 1 kg of mixed paper sells for 6 LKR). While we have been working to recycle more of our school’s waste, we are also concerned about consumption patterns and are working to educate the community about reducing these levels. Nevertheless, there is a general decline in paper being recycled (perhaps due to lower consumption patterns when the school moved to an electronic, 1:1 teaching & learning environment in 2014).

This has been an important year in the work of the Recycling & Sustainability program. We had an infusion of new leadership in August and the new avatar Train to Sustain out a focus on bringing a wider circle of the community into the sustainability picture. This post is being published at the end of the school year as we look back at important landmarks and consider jobs that still need to be done in the future.

The land slide at the Meethotamulla Dump Site was a major environmental disaster in our local area. The media coverage was quite comprehensive and there had been a good deal of self- reflection on the deeper causes that led to loss of lives and property. At the time of writing it, is still unsure if the country is going to adopt the kind of policies that will address the solid municipal waste (SMW) problem and tackle it with aggressive efforts to reduce, recycle or compost what is left over.

At the school we made major headway with moving the cafeteria to be more sustainable. Significantly we eliminated all disposables: paper boxes, paper cubs, and finally straws. The credit for this is also due to the Canteen committee and Reefkepers who support the effort to eliminate disposables. The group continued to its weekly paper and cardboard collection and the results are shared above. This year we started to get paid higher rates when we delivered better segregated A4 paper and cardboard. Generally, the price was LKR 6 per kg but a few times we earned LKR 10 for paper and LKR 15 for cardboard. The school has a printing quote and we hypothesized that this has reduced overall consumption of paper. At this stage we can not comment on that since our data on paper purchased and consumed is incomplete.

We continued to build our relationship with Viridis, the country’s leading plastic recycling. The DP Environmental Systems & Societies class and several recycling leaders took a field trip to their site. Later Viridis set up a PET bottle collection point at the school. We have extended the option of recycling plastic bottles for the whole OSC community.

We still have work to do in the following areas:

  • General awareness spreading in the community.
  • Better use of the waste bins on campus. We have noted that, despite having three different bins, people are mixing what they throw away.
  • Overall reduction in the amount of solid waste generated by OSC.
  • Highlighting E-waste and doing a better job with recycling what we produce.

Several Important articles have been published about the Solid Waste crisis and ways to solve the problem in Sri Lanka. See the following references:

REFERENCES & FURTHER READING

Economic Benefits of Waste Management. Mirror Business. 2 May 2017. Web.

Maligapse, Rajith. “Sri Lanka’s Waste (Mis) Management.” Roar. 18 May 2017. Web.

Ravishan. “The Story Behind Our Solid Waste (Mis) Management.” Roar. 5 June 2017. Web.

The Garbage Economy. LMD. Web.

Weeraratne, Bilesha. “Pay as You Throw! A Solution to Sri Lanka’s Mounting Garbage Issue?” Talking Economics. 24 April 2017. Web.

Written by recycling1011

2017-06-07 at 10:19 AM