OSC Recycling & Sustainability Service Group

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

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

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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

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