OSC Recycling & Sustainability Service Group

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

The Business of Reincarnation – Bringing Discarded Metal Back to Life!

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Metals at the Battaramulla recycling center. Copper is the most lucrative metal amongst these.

Have you ever wondered what happens to the objects you dispose? Well, the dead and useless waste is turned into a fresh and full of life product! In this rapidly changing world, new discoveries and inventions in the field of science and technology have done the undoable. The three step technique called ‘Reduce, Reuse and Recycle’, a.k.a. the 3 R’s, is the rule that governs a new business of reincarnation – The reincarnation of non-biodegradable waste.

Obsolescence of all products is the major reason for increase in waste production in the world, and can only be solved by decreasing manufacture of new goods, increasing efficiency and life of old products, or recycling. Recycling is the simplest solution and the importance of this process can be learnt from David Morris’s quote – “The case for recycling is strong. The bottom line is clear. Recycling requires a trivial amount of our time. Recycling saves money and reduces pollution. Recycling creates more jobs than landfilling or incineration. And a largely ignored but very important consideration, recycling reduces our need to dump our garbage in someone else’s backyard.”


In Sri Lanka, approximately 2.76% of the all the waste collected are metals. However, as approximately 37.49% of the disposed wastes are non-biodegradable (non-compostable), metals form a major portion of the wastes. To understand the waste collection and recycling process for metals, the OSC Grade 11 Geography class visited two waste collecting sites in the Battaramulla area, one located on the Pelawatte Road and the other adjacent to the Parliament Road. These sites serve as middlemen between the consumers, i.e. the disposers, and the recyclers, i.e. the processing and recycling companies, and are not assisted by the Government or other Non-Governmental Organizations. At both sites, it was found that the metals iron and aluminum are the largest proportion of the waste that is collected. The Parliament Road site receives approximately 300 Kg of aluminum per month while the largest waste product collected by the Pelawatte Road site was Iron. Other metals collected by both sites are steel, pewter (an alloy majorly composed of tin), copper and lead. All these metals are either collected by garbage trucks and vehicles managed separately by these collection centers, or are bought directly from consumers who visit these centers. They are collected in the form of items such as soda cans, construction rods, appliances such as air conditioners and heaters, piping, and even bicycles and motorcycles. The sites buy these disposed metals from the consumers, and after separating the different types of metals, they sell them in raw state to large companies that classify them into grades based at relatively higher prices. The average prices at which these middlemen buy different metals are given in Table 1.

Table 1: The average prices of metals bought by garbage collectors in Battaramulla. (Survey data)

Type of metal

Price per Kilogram


Rs. 40 – 45


Rs. 30 – 35


Rs. 450


Rs. 60


Rs. 25

These are then “crushed, baled and exported to India as there are no existing production facilities to melt and recycle” in Sri Lanka. (Environmental)

Recycling is an optimum solution for the future as natural resources are declining rapidly due to high consumption and over-exploitation. With respect to metals, “any grade of metal can be recycled to top quality new metal with no downgrading from prime to lower quality materials” following the simple step by step procedure of crushing, shredding, and melting. However, the metal recycling process in Sri Lanka has many weaknesses which need to be assessed and diminished. These weaknesses include the lack of profit in the privately run garbage collecting centers and no external assistance leading to economic instability and meager subsistence for the workers at such sites. Improvements in this sector would not only create an eco-friendly culture in the country, however, also a new source of income promoting the country’s economic growth will be developed. Thus, it is important for the Government of Sri Lanka to play a substantial role in supporting garbage collection centers, both by providing financial support for development of infrastructure as well as by spreading awareness about the procedure, in order to completely solve the problem of growing trash and declining resources.

The author and Uvin interviewing the manager of a scrap/recycling dealer in Thalawathagoda.

Dhyani Ywahoo said that “You can tell how high a society is by how much of its garbage is recycled.” Hence, it is also elemental for everyone in the community to do their part. Therefore, resource preservation and sustainability need to be implemented as communal goals. So, the next time you are disposing a waste item, be ‘waste wise’ and remember ‘3 R’s for waste avatars.’

Works Cited

“About Metal Recycling.” British Metals Recycling Association (BMRA). Web. 25 Mar. 2012.

Environmental Foundation Ltd. CLIMBING OUT OF THE GARBAGE DUMP: Managing Colombo’s Solid Waste Problem. January 2007. Colombo, 2007. EFL Policy Paper. EFL. Web. 26 Mar. 2012.

GreenstudentU.com. “Green Student U.” Metal Recycling. Web. 26 Mar. 2012.

Zon, Levien Van, and Nalaka Siriwardena. Garbage in Sri Lanka:  An Overview of Solid Waste Management in the Ja-Ela Area. IRMP, Colombo, Oct. 2000. Web. 25 Mar. 2012.

article copyright by Satyanshu Sapra 2014



Written by recycling1011

2012-04-23 at 4:55 AM

Posted in Guest Articles

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