OSC Recycling & Sustainability Service Group

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

Archive for May 2012

Forbes India on New E-Waste Guidelines.. a model for Sri Lanka?

leave a comment »

Screen Shot from E-Wast article

See the following link for this article….



Written by recycling1011

2012-05-16 at 2:48 PM

Posted in E-Waste, News Articles

Waste not, want not… are we doing enough to recycle paper at OSC?

leave a comment »

Sahil & cardboard at the Battaramulla Recycling Center

Less is More! Whether it’s money, makeup or just plain paper, we are often advised by our teachers and parents to use only that what’s required. Of the three, it’s paper that’s the true, constant companion in our lives as students. We use paper to write on, paper to draw on, paper to print assignments, paper to make cardboard boxes for storage and then… discard it!It’s significant role in our lives ends as a crushed ball in a bin. Is it not strange that we are not curious as to its origins? So, where does this paper come from?

Paper, first introduced by the ancient Chinese, is a nonrenewable resource  unless it is recycled. The primary source of most of the paper that we use is the wood fibres of trees and plants. Wood fibres are converted into pulp using water and energy to make paper. Yet another source is recycled wood fibres obtained from used paper. It is worth noting that “By treating waste as a resource, the reader will save money and better the environment,” (Dave, Lillian Brummet) for the more paper we use, the more is wasted and more trees have to be cut down.

In educational institutions like OSC, paper is a significant resource not only for students but also for teachers, the Business Office, and the IT labs.

In 2010-2011 alone, OSC used 900,000 sheets of A-4 Size Paper at an annual cost of US $ 7525; the IT departments lead the consumption estimate at 75 – 80%.

This means that with a  monthly cost of US $ 637 and thus, a daily cost of US$21 per day, OSC’s expenditure on paper is four times more than the per capita income of daily wage workers in Bangladesh, and the administration, keen to reduce expenses , follows a two pronged environmentally friendly strategy : reduction and conservation.

Principally, its strategy is to reduce paper consumption. According to OSC Accountant Suren and PRO Dharshana, the Business Office has launched an initiative to reduce usage by replacing hard copies of printed financial reports with soft copies of CDs. Usage of recycled paper is limited in OSC as recycled paper cannot be used for printing purposes although the school does encourage the use and sales of reasonably priced recycled paper greetings cards during the festive season.

Furthermore, to improve OSC’s resource conservation strategy, Suren Rajadurai and Dharshana Abeysekera proposed the continuation and implementation of practices like replacing paper with CD’s and the emailing of assignments to and by teachers. Moreover, to raise awareness amongst students, OSC has a community service programme whereby waste paper and cardboard is sold to recycling centers and the revenue is used to purchase recycling bins that are strategically placed around the school.

This strategy needs to be encouraged more and awareness created as only 5% of the 900,000 sheets of paper are sold to recycling companies. Still, it’s a progress of sorts as even this 5% was not recycled before the initiation of the in house recycling programme was initiated, for previously OSC followed the Linear System of immediately disposing off the used paper and adding to the increasing levels of  pollution

Recycling centers, and there are a few in the city, buy used paper, and OSC sells used paper waste to one such center located on the parliament road. The profit, that the recycling center on the parliament road makes was compared with that of another recycling center in Pannipitya, and were approximately the same.  The center has been in operation for the last 10-15 years: recycling paper, cardboard, plastic, glass and aluminum. For the purpose of this article, we shall focus on waste paper and cardboard. Investigations reveal that while waste paper, from India and Kandy, is recycled locally, waste cardboard is exported to India to undergo recycling by being boiled in water at high temperatures and converted into pulp, which is then dried. Waste has been recycled for reuse. This is then imported back. Thus, the center buys the waste at Rs. 8/kg – a pittance and sells the recycled product at Rs. 11/kg.

To ensure efficient recycling and maximize profits, the center also keeps abreast of new and innovative recycling practices. According to the manager, “We try to attend international conferences in Watalla, near the airport, to update our current methods of recycling and aim to diversify and increase the amount of materials that are recycled, from plastic to printer cartridges.”  Discussions with the manager reveal that since there is minimal government support in the form of subsidies, the center’s recycling aim is guided more by profit and less by a love for the environment. However, in spite of the purely profiteering mindset of the center’s administration, there is evidence of a consciousness of ecofriendly habits and a demand for recycling amongst the population in Colombo.

This awareness is heartening as it shows that all is not lost yet, that there is a conscious effort amongst the old and young alike to preserve and conserve the environment. In initiating a recycling programme targeting the youth and a concerted action plan based on technology, OSC has shown that it cares for the future of the world and the environment. So has the environmentally friendly population in Colombo through their waste recycling awareness. So have the recycling centers although their motives are slightly skewed. But is this enough? Should it not be an approach of “Waste not want not?” sustainability and use only what is absolutely required if our children are to inherit a green world?

Let us not have it on our consciences that for every sheet of wasted paper,  somewhere, someplace a tree is being cut down … a tree that has taken years to grow but only seconds to die!

Article Copyright Alisha Rajaatnam, 2012

Written by recycling1011

2012-05-10 at 9:08 AM

Printer Cartridge Challenges in the Digital Age: Roger De Alwis on the OSC Situation

leave a comment »

Printer cartridge at the Battaramulla Recyling Center…awaiting an uncertian future.

Quick Facts

  • Cartridges are often overlooked as a possible recyclable item.
  • Soon, cartridges will pose a problem, just like paper, plastic and glass
  • Local collection centers will collect cartridges for their raw plastic, rubber, paper, metal and foam value.
  • A more effective way is sending cartridges off to Recycle4Charity or similar nonprofit organization, where you will be paid up to $15 for laser cartridges.
  • So, start today, something can be done. It’s a matter of doing

When we think of recycling we usually think of three things: paper, glass and plastic. Sure, it’s important to make sure to chuck last weekend’s Sunday times or the cola bottle into the recycling bin but everyone’s doing it these days.  Recycling paper, plastic and glass has become so mainstream that no one’s missing out on this chunk of the green revolution …or that’s what they are fooled into thinking. In fact, we miss out on all the minute amounts of plastics, paper and glass materials that are in items that are made from a combination of these things. For example, printer cartridges are widely overseen as a material that can be recycled. This is bad. If neglected, the pollution and costs of discarded and newly manufactured printer cartridges can become a huge problem, just as paper, plastic and glass came under our radar in the recent past.

In order to immerse ourselves headfirst in this potential problem, the Geography class of 2013 visited a local junk yard that collected recyclable items in order to send to recycling centers.  We asked around and found out that they do collect printer cartridges but they don’t recycle it the conventional way that printer cartridges are recycled. They take cartridges apart and send the individual material types to be recycled. According to inkguides.com, the conventional printer cartridge is made up of around 40% plastic, 40% metal and smaller percentages of rubber, paper and foam.  Although recycling individual components is not the most effective method, it is far better than throwing them in landfills, burning them to release thousands of harmful toxins and then using up more resources and energy to manufacture new ones. According to the person in charge at the junk yard, they only receive about 50 kilograms a month which shows us that not most people are familiar with the concept of recycling their ink cartridges but are used to just throwing them away either due to lack of awareness or carelessness. The person in charge admitted, when asked, that 50 kilograms a month is a small fraction of what’s really out there being used. So as seen, part of the problem is spreading the word. “HEY YOU, YOU CAN RECYCLE YOUR INK CARTRIDGES!”

The other possible option is where the printer companies (HP< epson etc.) themselves or  non-profit organizations take in the printer cartridges to remanufacture them. This is probably the best option. In this second option, one collects the printer cartridges and sends them to a nonprofit organization or the printer cartridge company itself that will remanufacture it for you. Normally, when a Printer/computer company takes in the items they do not pay you but a non-profit organization will as they sell the items to remanufacturers and they receive money. The money they receive is used to pay back the donors for the used cartridges and used to give back to charity as most of the nonprofit organizations are for charity, such as the Recycle4Charity organization.

When we manage fix the linear system that goes from factory to store to printer to landfill can we stop worrying about cartridges becoming a problem we can’t handle. Basically, companies like Recycle4Charity and local collection centers help transform our linear system of consumption into a circular one, where minimum waste exits the system, minimum resources are exploited and minimum energy is spent. Most of our electronics, including printer cartridges are designed to be thrown away, they are planned to be obsolete because this is good money for the capitalist. But, with a little help from you and me and a will fight to get back our planet from the capitalists, we can make planned obsolescence unplanned existence.

You can find out more about Recycle4Charity here: http://www.recycle4charity.com

The Overseas School of Colombo collects printer cartridges for recyling  so send yours in if you have empty ones at home!

Works Cited

“Made in China.” C7115A Toner Cartridge for Laserjet. Web. 25 Mar. 2012.

Personal Interview.23 March. 2012

“SAVE on Printer Ink!” Printer Ink. Web. 29 Mar. 2012.

The New York Times. The New York Times. Web. 29 Mar. 2012.

“Used Empty Inkjet Cartridges HP 21, 22.” Used Empty Inkjet Cartridges HP 21, 22. Web. 27 Mar. 2012.

article copyright Roger De Alwis 2012

The author (left) and Onkar at the Battaramulla Recycling Center

Written by recycling1011

2012-05-10 at 8:28 AM

Now where did I put that pen?!

leave a comment »

The author with recycled metals in Battaramulla

Have you thought about the element, compound, or alloy that is a good conductor of both electricity and heat  lately? Probably not, but metals are important to each and every one of us.(Fry 12). Metals are found all around us, both naturally and mechanically. It’s safe to say that everyday every human being comes in contact with different metals. OSC doesn’t use that much metal in terms of the canteen, with cans and such. But the students themselves are consumers of metal. From the wiring in your kids earphones when they are blasting music, that to you is just noise; to the pen casing you use to sign those checks that go towards your child’s oh so promising future.  We use metals every day, and once they are of no more use, once the pen runs out of ink, and the earphones break because we accidentally sit on them; they are discarded, tossed aside, never to be given a second thought of.

However, this is not the case. If you’re like  the 75% of the world, that pen will end up in a land fill, or some dump or even the “ pacific bowl of soup” you know that “land mass” of trash in the middle of the ocean the size of the United States? If you are NOT like that 75%, you could recycle that pen, bringing it to a recycle center. And before you stop reading this thinking, oh it’s one of those “reduce, re-use, recycle” things that don’t apply to Sri Lanka, I’m here to tell you you’re wrong.

The Grade 11 geography class has been witness to the recycling centers for this finite natural element called metal.  Both the Parliament road recycling center and the pannipitiya road recycling center are metal “halfway” houses. And they collect almost ANYTHING. The parliament road recycling center is a storage space filled to the brim with metal, there are literally car doors hanging from the ceiling! All these metal scraps of Iron, Steel, Tin, Aluminum, and Copper are found in the forms of poles, old machinery, chairs, grills, even car bodies!

Now what is the gathering of all this metal for? What possible positive outcome can collecting rust be? This is where the “re-use and recycle” part of the conservation strategy comes into play with metal. Civilians, take recycling into their own hands and they get rewarded for that. If you bring metal, such as cans from all that soda your kids drink, or parts of that car you totaled when almost being squashed by one of those buses, then this is where you come to!

The metal is weighed on an “old-school” scale, and you are given money in exchange for the amount of metal brought in. The prices per kg of course, alter depending on the metal brought in. Iron goes for 45 rupees, Aluminum for 100 rupees, Copper for 40 rupees and tin for 10 rupees. This is all per kg. All these recycled objects are either broken down into more valuable metals and sold, or sold as they are to whole sale buyers. A common occurrence where metals are “broken down” is when motors are brought in. The motors are welded apart, and the copper coil inside is heated and separated into raw copper coiled, which is then sold to be melted down and used again.

So, next time you are about to think of sending your toaster to the dump, don’t. Take a visit to the recycling centers, who knows, you might get a few rupees out of it, and you know that you are being a more ecologically friendly civilian, and not necessarily adding more “land” to the pacific bowl of soup.

Works Cited

Bourne, Kathleen. “Trash: The Oceans Full of It.” Reduce, Re-use, Recycle. 19 Nov. 2009. Web. 26 Mar. 2012.

Fry, Jason. “Metal: Definition.” Wiki Answers. Wikipedia. Web. 24 Mar. 2012.

Pedal, Maya. “Metal.” Recycling. Maya Pedal Assosciation, 8 Mar. 2012. Web. 29 Mar. 2012.

Copyright Vera Bednar 2012



Written by recycling1011

2012-05-10 at 7:16 AM

Posted in Guest Articles