OSC Recycling & Sustainability Service Group

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

Biogas Initiative at OSC

leave a comment »

OSC’s Biogas unit being installed by the school’s maintenance team behind the science labs in October 2018.

Solid domestic waste (SDW) continues to be a pressing issue at different scales here in Sri Lanka. The problem of managing solid waste on OSC’s campus challenges our community as it does the city and country. Earlier this semester we took small steps to address the issue of managing the campus’ biodegradable food waste using a biogas plant.

Local Challenges with The Global Issue of SDW

Readers will remember that Sri Lanka’s solid waste problem exploded in the public’s consciousness with the tragic Meethotamulla collapse in April 2017. Since then the authorities have struggled to propose a way forward. Key leaders include the Governments Central Environment Authority and the Ministry of Megapolis. At the moment, the management approach is focused on making a larger landfill north of the city at Kerwalapitiya in the Puttalam District (see Sunday Observer). However, this is fraught with risks and there are already alarming reports and images of elephants and other wildlife feeding on poorly managed SDW in rural areas of Sri Lanka (see Sunday Times). The merits of putting a large land fill site next to Wilpattu National Park, one of Sri Lanka’s most important protected areas, is also questionable. There is also discussion on developing “waste to energy” plants to deal with Colombo’s SDW (see the Daily Mirror from August 10 2017)

R&S SDW Strategy at OSC

The approach of OSC’s Recycling and Sustainability service group is to work hard to reduce and recycle what the school community is discarding. Our group’s mission, of course, is to reduce the school’s ecological footprint. We know from informal studies that more than half of our SWD is organic and can be composted if we have the right infrastructure in place. About 10 years ago we experimented with compost on campus but poor maintenance, oversight and the design of the concrete bins contributed to a lack of success with this will intended initiative. Since then our organic waste has been being picked up by municipal workers. This is a less than perfect situation as the wet waste it is often mixed with recyclables and other waste contributing to a foul smell at the garbage depot near the school entrance.

Biogas Dreams

The idea of installing a biogas plant to deal with campus organic waste was rooted in developments in household biogas plants by the plastic manufacturer Arpico and a MYP exhibition project in 2014. The exhibition was a student exploration of alternatives with leadership provided by Tassy Dalhan in the Grade 5 team. It took a while, but the ideas have finally resulted in concrete action. A year ago Class of 2020 student Disara Samayawardhena researched biogas plants and made a model unit for her MYP Personal Project. In May 2018 Disara, Mr Cirshanta Fernando the campus administrator and I visited the household plant designed and owned by Sunil Weilvata, an employee of the National Engineering Research  and Development Centre of Sri Lanka (NERDC). We were impressed by what we saw and it was Sunil’s unit that formed the basis for our plan. At the end of the school year the R&S Service group committed funds (from our years of paper recycling earnings) to the biogas project and the school made up the small difference of the LKR 70,000 unit.

Over the summer Sunil worked on the unit and it was delivered and installed behind the science labs in early October 2018. At the moment, we are charging it with daily inputs of cow dung and it will soon be ready to start taking organic waste from the cafeteria.

OSC’s Biogas plant has several goals:

  • To better manage and reduce the wet (food) waste on the OSC campus.
  • To produce renewable CH4 to use as a fuel source (for demonstration cooking).
  • To produce slurry that can be used as a fertilizer (we will add this to the septic system initially)

Our current challenges are the following:

  • The system needs careful weekly, if not daily, monitoring.
  • We need to be able to measure inputs and outputs from the system using weigh scales and gas pressure gauges. At the moment, these systems are not in place.
  • We need the school community to do a better job with separating waste in the canteen. At the moment plastic, tinfoil and other non-biodegradables are showing up in our food bins.

 

REFERENCES & FURTHER READING

Attanayake, Dimuthu. “How to dump the trash.” Sunday Observer. 10 June 2018. Web.

Daniel, Shannine. “Meethotamulla: One Year On.” Roar. 2 May 2018. Web.

Environmental Impact Assessment Report of the Proposed Project on Metro Colombo Solid Waste Management project Final Report. Ministry of Urban Development, Water Supply and Drainage. Colombo, 2015. Web.

Fairways Waste Management. Web.

“Garbage projects coming on stream to help ease disposal issues.” Sunday Times. 5 August 2018. Web.

Lanka Biogas. Web.

“Solid Waste Management: A Way Forward.” Daily Financial Times (FT).  25 July 2017. Web.

“Status of Waste Management in Sri Lanka.” Environment Foundation Ltd. (EFL).14 June 2017. Web.

The Metro Colombo Solid Waste Management Project.  Ministry of Megapolis and Western Development. Central Environment Authority. 2017.Web.

Wipulasena, Aanya. “Despite EIA report and protests: Govt ploughs through Aruwakkalu landfill project.” Sunday Observer. 10 October 2018. Web.

Advertisements

Written by ianlockwood

2018-11-27 at 8:32 AM

A New School Year

leave a comment »

The 2018-19 Recycling & Sustainability service group at the beginning of the school year.

This year we have several goals for OSC’s Recycling & Sustainability group in  the 2018-19 school year.

  • Continue to pursue our mission statement of reducing the school’s ecological footprint through active recycling and information campaigns to help reduce consumption.
  • Improve the process of waste segregation on campus. It is not working very well at the moment.
  • Promote the composting of school garden waster through the in house design of a large leaf composter.
  • Sponsor a 2nd annual Environment Day (scheduled for March 2019).
  • Facilitate the installation and maintenance of a Biogas plant. The plant is being paid for with money that the R&S group raised through the sale of paper and cardboard over the last 13 years. OSC student Disara Samayawardhena is helping and taking a personal lead in this enterprise.
  • Work with other school collaborators on achieving our goals, namely the school maintenance department and the Reefkeepers service group.
  • Promote the idea of installing solar photovoltaic panels on our roofs. This is a significant investment but we believe it will help make OSC a more sustainable campus and Ms. Chameela’s case study demonstrated that it both both economic sense and good for the environment. We are pushing the idea with the school board who commissioned a feasibility study in 2017-18.

 

Written by ianlockwood

2018-09-18 at 2:15 PM

2017-18 School Year Wraps Up

leave a comment »

The 2017-18 school year ended in June and the Recycling & Sustainability group transitioned to new student leadership. It was a good year with enthusiastic participation and several new initiatives that are reviewed here.

  • We continued to mange the regular weekly recycling of paper and cardboard while also facilitating plastic recycling through Veridis.
  • The group collaborated with the school’s Reefkeepers service group through the maintenance of a common informational bulletin board and collaboration on several projects including a Beach Clean up in November 2017.
  • In March the Recycling & Sustainability group sponsored an OSC Environment Day. This activity was initiative and planned by senior Aashika Jain with support form the group and faculty facilitator. It involved a school wide assembly to raise environmental awareness and then a special vegetarian lunch. Aashika liaised with the Primary environmental club and roped them into do a skit on waste separation. It was a successful venture and there is now potential to do much more in 2019.
  • In April we bid farewell to student leaders Aashika Jain and Aryaman Satish. They both completed two school years of leadership of Recycling and Sustainability under the” Train to Sustain” avatar. Both of them grew in their roles and developed leadership skills while addressing our goal of reducing the school’s ecological footprint. We trust that they will take life long lessons with them as they enter the undergraduate universe.
  • In May we worked with the head of the campus maintenance Mr. Crishan and MYP5 students Disara to investigate a campus biogas plant. The decision was made to invest in one of these to more responsibly manage our food waste on campus. It is set to be installed in August or September 2019.
  • Related to the biogas initiative the R&S group provided a new compost design (created by the service leader) to the school to better deal with leaf litter. The school has a number of trees and is currently bagging and throwing away roughly 5 garbage bags of leaves every day.
  • Our data on sales of paper shows what we have recycled and how much we have earned. From this data there is a suggestion that we are also consuming less (see below). We have also started to try to track data on how much solid waste is given to municipal collectors every week.

Recycling accounts over ten years at OSC. Note that the amount paid for recycled paper and cardboard has steadily risen. Thus even though the quantities of materials recycled has decreased, the amount of money earned is actually slowly rising.

Other Sustainability Initiatives on Campus

There have been several other sustainability initiatives on campus.

  • The Student Government Association sold glass bottled water for the first time. The issue of student groups selling water and soft drinks in PET containers was a point of conflict for many years and it was good to see this changing. This initiative was led by MY%5 student Anuda Weerasinghe who is a alum of the R&S Service group.
  • Reefkeepers worked with the Barista coffee shop t sett up a rewards scheme for customers bringing their own cups. The program was so successful that they have set up similar schemes at their other shops on the island! Barista also phased out its plastic single use cups on our campus after pressure from several members and groups on campus.
R&S_Group_Semester_2(03_18)

Semester II Recycling Group with student leaders Aryaman and Aashika in the front center.

Written by ianlockwood

2018-06-06 at 4:40 PM

Earth Day 2018 at OSC Message

leave a comment »

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

Written by ianlockwood

2018-04-27 at 7:22 AM

Plastic Recycling in Colombo: A 2018 Update

leave a comment »

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

leave a comment »

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

leave a comment »

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