OSC Recycling & Sustainability Service Group

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

Archive for April 2011

Recycling & Sustainability at OSC

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Sorting cardboard and other recyclables at the OSC recycling room.

The OSC recycling and sustainability group works every Thursday to decrease the ecological footprint of the school by organizing recycling and raising awareness about resource use and energy consumption in our school community. The service activity has students from Grade 6-12 and occasionally we have primary school students join us. Here are some pictures from a typical Thursday afternoon.

Loading cardboard into the school pickup truck. We earn SL rupees 10 per kg of cardboard at the scrap dealer.

Unloading cardboard at the recycling center/scrap yard.

Weighing cardboard at the scrap yard/recycling center.

Scrap yard near Battaramulla where we sell our recyclable materials.

Payment received for cardboard sold.

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Written by recycling1011

2011-04-22 at 9:02 AM

Acid Dilemmas: Recycling Batteries in Sri Lanka

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In Sri Lanka, like most other countries around the world, the daily usage of batteries is high. The varieties of batteries range from normal AA size to lead acid batteries in vehicles. Ranging with size, however, is also the toxicity of these batteries and the threat they pose on the environment. This factor comes into question when looking at the methods of disposal we follow. This article follows general statistics in Sri Lanka in terms of the usage and recycling of batteries, as well as a close up of the Battaramulla area and OSC itself.

Sri Lanka most notably uses 5 types of batteries: automotive, generic, industrial, motive and special. The lifetime of all these batteries vary with brand and usage, and the size depends on their purpose. Automotive batteries are used in vehicles, generic in portable tools and devices (such as alarm systems), industrial for stationary applications such as telecommunications, motives for transporting loads such as fork lift trucks, and finally special batteries scientific, medical or military applications. Out of these the most widely used are the automotive batteries, used to power nearly all of the 1.5 million vehicles on the roads.

All batteries are made by a range of substances like acid, lead, nickel, mercury, etc. Needless to say, these substances are extremely harmful for the environment if not disposed properly. Over time, the casing of the battery can disintegrate and the toxic chemicals can leak into the surroundings. These chemicals can contaminate the soil and water and can harm both humans and wildlife. Although batteries made of mercury, which is one of the most harmful substances, are now appearing less in the market, the problem arises when considering the fact that other batteries are still produced in large stocks of around billions every year.

The recycling of batteries takes place by dismantling them and removing the chemical substances inside for reuse. When recycling is not possible, the substances are disposed of in a way that they are not harmful to the environment. Some batteries are even buried in concrete to ensure this (Recycling). This is not done in Sri Lanka; rather Battery recycling involves a series of intermediary management steps that entail only collecting, stacking and reconditioning. These activities are carried out in the form of small and medium scale businesses. In a survey done in 2005 by the Central Environmental Authority (CEA) in collaboration with the Divisional Environmental Officers (DEOs) of Sri Lanka, it was revealed that 2000 such places of recycling and reassembling places existed in Sri Lanka (Ministry).

Here in the Battaramulla area, there are several such businesses that take in batteries and transport them for recycling.  OSC’s Grade 11 geography class visited such a place and found out that the buying price for an automotive battery is Rs 60/kg and the selling price is Rs 75/kg. For Computer batteries it is Rs 25/kg and Rs 35/kg respectively. These businesses are important both to the economical development of people who’ve set them up, but more significantly to the sustenance of the environment we all share.

In a survey conducted for the recycling of batteries at OSC, the following results were obtained from the 39 people who answered. When asked whether they recycle laptop and mobile phone batteries, only 10% ‘Yes’ with 62% saying ‘No’. Those who do recycle them stated that they do so by taking them to a shop that takes them in (much like the one our class visited). When asked how they dispose regular AA size batteries, 44% said that they just throw them away, while 36% said that they throw them away separated from other garbage items. Some also stated that they keep them in their houses separately in a cupboard so as not to pollute (Survey). As recycling is not possible for normal AA batteries, this is the next best option. Overall these results weigh on the positive side, as most of our students are aware of places to recycle batteries at and also to keep them from harming the environment. However, more awareness should nevertheless be spread as to ensuring that 62% people who do not recycle phone and laptop batteries are told about places where they can do so.

Article Copyright: Harini Liyanage  2011

Works Cited

Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources. “Technical Guidelines on Management of Used Lead Acid Batteries.” Cea.lk. Central Environmental Authority, 2005. Web. Feb. 2011. <http://www.cea.lk/pdf/Battery%20waste%20Management%20Guidelines.pdf&gt;.

“Recycling Batteries and The Toxic Hazards of Battery Disposal.” AZoCleanTech – The A to Z of Clean Technology / CleanTech. Web. 27 Feb. 2011. <http://www.azocleantech.com/Details.asp?ArticleID=132&gt;.

“Survey on Recycling Batteries at OSC.” Online Survey Software Tool – Create Free Online Surveys – Zoomerang. 26 Feb. 2011. Web. 27 Feb. 2011. <http://www.zoomerang.com/Survey/WEB22BY6CQYLYB/&gt;.

Written by recycling1011

2011-04-22 at 3:45 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

Aluminum Cans (Resource Conservation Strategies in Sri Lanka)

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In Colombo, the community around OSC, Battaramulla disposes its waste (including aluminum cans at times)  through conventional garbage collections and more eco-friendly scrap yards. So what happens to all of the waste we produce?  To find an answer of the amount of aluminum cans being thrown away in our waste and the processes it is being done, our class decided to visit a nearby scrap yard/recycling center located near the school. After an interview with one of the staff in charge, I managed to deduce the following information. The site receives an average of 300 kg of aluminum cans per month and that the buy value of aluminum per kg is 100 Rs. and the selling price is 120 Rs. However these price values are probably unlikely because the recycling center staff member seemed reluctant to tell us the full details of their operations.  However, if the prices stated to us are true, it means that the trash disposal company receives a profit when they purchase aluminum cans from citizens and then sell their aluminum cans to landfills or recycling plants. The fact that there is a buyer that purchases aluminum cans acts as an incentive that persuades local citizens to take advantage of their waste disposal program, causing the amount of waste to be more organized within the community.

Relating this experience to our community of OSC, we are a massive producer of waste in Battaramulla. The waste we create is collected by municipal disposal companies situated within Battaramulla. The aluminum cans that our school creates are sent to similar scrap yards similar to the areas I visited earlier. But when we send our aluminum cans to waste disposal centers, what actually happens to them? This fact from a UK study should help explain the circumstances of aluminum disposal and recycling.  Did you know that five billion aluminum drink cans are sold in the UK every year? Each of the cans have the ability to be recycled which will allow the nation to save energy, reduce resource consumption and provide lower waste levels. Sadly, only 42% of aluminum drink cans are recycled within the UK, meaning that the other 58% which is equal to three billion cans were disposed by means of garbage, waste or landfill.

One of the simplest ways to rid of aluminum cans is by recycling. A small list of the many advantages of recycling aluminum cans include, it requires less energy compared to mining and smelting it a new, it reduces the needs of raw materials such as bauxite, it reduces the amount of landfill levels in communities, it is the most cost-effective material, and it is one of the easiest materials to recycle.

It should seem trivial by now to not recycle your aluminum cans; so the next time you finish that can of Coke, don’t throw it into the trash, rinse it out, let it dry, and set it aside for recycling. This simple procedure will aid the struggle of resource preservation and sustainability indefinitely, so remember “Don’t bin your tin”.

Article Copyright: Skylor Knoll  2011

Written by recycling1011

2011-04-22 at 3:39 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

Plastic Recycling at OSC

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High quality plastic at the nearby recycling center.

Plastic has been around for hundreds of years but it is only recently that it has become both a curse and a blessing. The first form of natural plastic was invented by Leonardo Da Vinci during the Renaissance period using animal and vegetable pastes as well as organic fibers and mixing them all together (Plastic Bottle). It is a great material to hold liquids such as water, soft drinks, milk, and shampoo.   There are many more liquid commodities  that require containment by means of plastic, and that is because plastic is a considerably cheaper material to produce compared to glass.  Plastic is a great resource because it is easy to use and used for a lot, but there are significant negative aspects. Here at the Overseas School of Colombo we try our best to recycle plastic bottles. We have made a commendable progress  in recycling our plastic but, there is still a monumental task ahead.

OSC is a relatively green school but we consume large amounts of plastic. Looking at the school canteen, two to three boxes of 500ml plastic water bottles get consumed every day. There are 24 water bottles in each of the boxes, which means that our school consumes roughly 969 – 1440 water bottles in four weeks of school, which could be reduced if more people would drink from the water fountains instead. The canteen manager estimates that 40% of the plastic that is separated within the canteen is not recycled, just mixed in with the other trash where it’s simply thrown out and most probably dumped at a scrap corner on the side of the road and burnt, leading to Bisphenol (BPA) toxins in the air which are harmful to both humans and the environment (Flint).  There are many different alternatives that could reduce the amount of plastic water bottles our school consumes; one being installing filters for tap water outlets in the bathrooms so students can re-fill constantly, but there will always be issue of keeping the filters clean. Another alternative is installing more water dispensers that are easily accessible around the school. The water will then come from a company, such as American Water, which takes the water containers that we use, replace them, and then re-use them. Lastly, bringing in your own water container that you can constantly re-fill would assist in our resource conservation.

Plastic bottles are over used within our school community. Improper use and disposal can lead to series of negative effects therefore; we must reduce the consumption rate of plastic bottles within the school through use of alternatives.  Though the majority of the plastic is recycled, we could still do more to use less of the toxic materials that are harming our planet and our bodies. As a whole, there is still much to be done and little by little we can find a strategy allowing us to consume less of plastic bottles helping not only ourselves, but mother Earth too.

Article Copyright: Constanze Klempin 2011

Written by recycling1011

2011-04-22 at 3:21 AM

Posted in Plastics