OSC Recycling & Sustainability Service Group

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

Archive for June 2013

2012-13 In Review

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A busy afternoon at OSC's recycling & sustainability's collection center

A busy afternoon at OSC’s  collection center

2012-13 has been a good year for OSC’s Recycling & Sustainability service group. We have had two separate groups of students who have worked hard to reduce the school’s ecological footprint. It has also been gratifying to see several curricular links to ideas of sustainability being implemented at OSC. Several primary classes have environmental issues at the heart of the unit of inquiries and almost all of these have some sort of “action”: component worked into them. Grade 9 has conducted an “Eco Action” project and has looked at several different themes that are important to us (energy, waste etc.). Grade 11’s DP Geography class continues to conduct an annual study of recyclables and the economics of this informal activity in our local community.

There were several developments in Colombo and at our school regarding waste, recycling and energy this year. At OSC, an energy audit was conducted to assess where and how energy is being used. A report makes suggestions about modifications that the school should consider. Meanwhile, the Colombo municipality is enforcing rules about household and institution separating waste. In some cases they have provided different containers and color-coded bags to enable this. Unfortunately the issue of waste being left on roadsides is still a significant issue in our neighborhood ( actually outside of the CMC jurisdiction). While the school has started to separate waste, there is a still a long way to go. The OSC maintenance department did introduce a 3-category system of waste management. We still need to do more with the community about using these effectively. Beyond the campus, several municipal recycling units were closed which has made it difficult for citizens to find place to take their recyclables to. This comes at a time when the city of Colombo is undergoing a large-scale urban facelift with the assistance of the World Bank. The initiative is called the Metro Development Colombo Urban Development Plan.

Over the years the recycling & sustainability group has been fortunate to have some great student leaders. This year was no different and Satyanshu and Jennifer both did a superb job with helping the group to stay focused on its mission. They have both graduated now and are on their way to other life and educational adventures. They set a high standard for planning, articulating ideas of sustainability, leading younger students and effectively reflecting on the joys and tribulations of running the recycling & sustainability service group. Check out the links to their individual blogs (above right) to get a sense of their own growth and learning in our service group.

The OSC recycling and sustainability service group gets significant support from the OSC maintenance department. Every week they loan us a pickup truck , faithfully driven by Ranjit. One of the goals of our group is to work with the maintenance group to more efficiently mange recycling, waste and energy on the campus.

Updated data looking at the past four years of data from the recycling & sustainability program.

An updated graph illustrating the past five years of data from the recycling & sustainability program.

OSC's Recycling & Sustainability team 2-12-13 in the fall of 2012.

OSC’s Recycling & Sustainability team 2012-13 in the fall of 2012.


Written by recycling1011

2013-06-04 at 7:02 AM

Food Resources Consumption at OSC

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Today there is widespread concern about global warming and the mutlitude of environmental problems. Traditionally, we are bound to blame industries, automobiles and developed countries. However, have we ever thought about ourselves? If think critically, the answer will be: No! So, for the sake of our environment, we have to start from somewhere. I decided to start this from our school’s cafeteria by calculating the consumption of major selling products. This is what I got:

Figure 1: Daily consumption Source: Rukshan (canteen in-charge)

Figure 1: Daily consumption Source: Rukshan (canteen in-charge)

Figure 2: Carbon footprint of different products Sources: Tetrapak, TLC, Huffington post, How bad are bananas: The Carbon footprint of everything

Figure 2: see below

Figure 2: Carbon footprint of different products Sources: Tetrapak, TLC, Huffington post, How bad are bananas: The Carbon footprint of everything

In the figure 2, we can see the carbon dioxide emitted during the production of these products. If we calculate the total carbon emitted during 180 days of school, it sum up to 40 tonnes! And this is just from few products of canteen. This doesn’t include greenhouse gases emitted during the disposal process of these products.  The biggest challenge that we are now facing is ignorance or lack of awareness of the fact that we are emitting much more carbon dioxide than we think. Also, we are not paying for all of the destruction caused to environment because of production and disposal of these products. Environmentalists call this as ‘externalized cost’. At present, we are only paying for the ‘production cost’ which only includes cost of raw materials, manufacturing, packaging and transportation. Since, we don’t have enough ‘time’ (or we don’t bother) to force government and corporates to include this externalized cost, we need to take steps to control this externalized cost. In context of our canteen consumption, I suggest following steps:

  • Reduce plastics: At OSC, we have water dispensers that give us fresh/cold/hot water at free of cost. Despite of this facility, some people buy the bottled water from canteen. Personally, I have no idea why people do this because when we can have free water than why we want to buy the water? Not only from economic point of view, but it is harmful for us from environmental point of view. We all know that plastic are very dangerous for our environment. Not only there production is harmful for nature, but also the disposal creates much bigger environmental problems. Thus, we need to stop this practice and should consider keeping a metal or hard plastic bottle with us and refilling it using the dispensers. It is much more efficient and environmental friendly (and also pocket friendly).
  • Reduce the chicken consumption: The biggest carbon dioxide emitter of all products is chicken which emits about 6.9 kg of carbon dioxide per kg during the production. According to canteen in-charge, we consume about 20 kg of chicken per day. Since, I am a vegetarian due to religious reasons, this is too much. But from environmental point of view, the chicken in school canteen alone adds about 25 tonnes of carbon dioxide to the environment. To reduce this, we can substitute the chicken products with vegetarian products such as cheese. However, I would suggest we should become more vegetarian because it is better for the environment (you can read more at: 10 ways vegetarianism can help save the planet)
  • Use more glass bottles: According to the graph, glass bottles produce more carbon dioxide than other packaging materials. However, these are only production figures. The biggest difference between glass and other materials is that they are effectively reused and recycled which is not possible for tetrapacks and plastic bottles. Hence, we should start using more glass container over plastic containers and tetrapacks.

All these changes might look small and we might think how individual contribution will affect the planet. But big changes came from small changes. If all pledge to contribute to planet, it will certainly help in solving the environmental problems. Being environment friendly is not for the planet, it is for our own benefit.

Article Copyright Shwetank Varma, 2013.

Written by recycling1011

2013-06-03 at 7:41 AM

Paper Recycling in the OSC Community

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Recylcing OSC''s paper & cardboard near the cafeteria. Ranjit, OSC's truck driver (on left), has been assisting our activity for the last six years and plays a key role.

Recylcing OSC”s paper & cardboard near the cafeteria. Ranjit, OSC’s truck driver (on left), has been assisting our activity for the last six years and plays a key role.

Our waste: garbage, do you know where it goes? If the garbage stays in our homes for a while we tend to get irritated by the smell, but as the garbage is taken and dumped some other place, we are relieved. However, we don’t know the impact it has on the environment. Hence, we wait for the municipal government to address this issue. It’s unimaginable for the government to do something about this without our cooperation. The hard reality is that we are now generating more garbage than the earth’s system can handle. Thus, every citizen is responsible to address this issue. Usually people neglect to notice this big problem and fail to realize that saving the plant also has a commercial side that we can benefit from.

The average paper consumption per capita in Sri Lanka is about 7 kilograms per person of which only an inadequate 2 kilograms are collected for recycling based on a research carried out by, Geocyc ((Private) Limited). In the Western Province of Sri Lanka 7% of all garbage collected is paper which adds to the astounding 280 tons of paper per day, throughout Sri Lanka. Almost all commercial offices and homes burn or dispose paper by dumping it as garbage, waste paper is collected and sometimes it’s recycled, but unfortunately usually the paper is burned causing a cycle of exponential growth into damaging the environment. We cut down trees that reduce the carbon dioxide emission to make paper and then burn the paper to produce more carbon dioxide, we damage the environment on every step and contribute into the production of greenhouse gases. However, there is a solution, reduce, reuse and recycle. To decrease our impact on the environment, we must reduce our usage of paper, if we can’t do that we can reuse products and if that we can’t do, we must recycle.  To increase paper recycling in Sri Lanka Geocyc helped in the creation of the recycling industry in Sri Lanka and other foreign trade routes for recycling. Thus, adding the commercial side to further promote paper recycling.

To evaluate the paper recycling in Sri Lanka during a geography class, we collected data from three locale scrap recycling yards, about the recycling of paper in our local neighborhood Battramulla, Colombo, Sri Lanka. In one of the hub scrap recycling yards of Batramulla, Colombo, we discovered that they receive approximately one ton of cardboard in a week and one ton of paper in a month for recycling. To contribute in recycling of card board and paper, one receives ten rupees per kg of card board and paper. The local scrap yard hub then sends the card board to a company that sends the recyclable material abroad. Then, the recycling scrap yard hub makes a 50 percent profit by selling card board and paper for 15 rupees per kg. After collecting the data from the hub scrap yard, we then went to evaluate one of the branches of the hub scrap yard close to our school. Most of the procedures were similar to the Hub scrap yard except they bought paper for 5 rupees per kg while the hub bought it for 10 rupees per kg. The sub branch bought paper much cheaper than the hub. To get an even more precise data we then went to evaluate another scrap yard, there the manager bought paper and cardboard for 10 rupees per kg and he got 3 tons of card board and paper monthly and sells it at 14 rupees per kg.

  Emission of Carbon Dioxide Reduced (grams) Emission of Methane Reduced (grams) Profit of selling in SL Rupees
1 KG Cardboard




1 KG of Paper






From the data, we know that if we recycle 1 KG of Paper we save the environment of 900 grams of Carbon Dioxide and 850 grams of Methane and we earn 10 Sir Lankan Rupees and by recycling 1 KG of Cardboard we save the environment of 1,000 grams of Carbon Dioxide and 950 grams of Methane and we earn 10 Sir Lankan Rupees.  Per capita used paper in Sir Lanka according Levien van Zon’s article is 200 Kg of paper and cardboard. Which indicates that that if all of the paper was recycled (200 KG) we save the environment of 19000 grams of Carbon Dioxide and 170000 grams of Methane and we earn 2000 Sir Lankan Rupees.

Form this evaluation I didn’t only learn about the commercial side of recycling but also saw how much stuff we use and then dump as garbage, while we can recycle, get paid and contribute into making the planet be more sustainable. The further I evaluated the paper recycling, I wondered why are we not recycling more it is beneficial to everybody and everything.

Works Cited

“Garbage in Sri Lanka.” Garbage in Sri Lanka. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Mar. 2013.

Environment, Programme. “Reducing Our Waste the 3R Way.” Reducing Our Waste the 3R Way. N.p., 28 June 2009. Web. 31 Mar. 2013.

“GEOCYC (PRIVATE) LIMITED.” Welcome to Geocyc. Lanka E-Marketing, n.d. Web. 25 Mar. 2013.

“The.CO2List.org.” The.CO2List.org. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Mar. 2013.


Article Copyright Shahirullah Majeed, 2013

Written by recycling1011

2013-06-03 at 6:41 AM

Recycling of Plastics: An Update for OSC

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Weighing paper at the nearby scap dealer. Note the plastic PET bottles that he has collected. Generally it has been difficult to find buyers for OSC's plastic waste.

Weighing paper at the nearby scap dealer. Note the plastic PET bottles that he has collected. Generally it has been difficult to find buyers for OSC’s plastic waste.

The island has long had people who buy old bottles and newspapers.

Collecting old iron has also become a lucrative business to some.

But not everyone knows that there is money in waste plastic.” (Jayawardena)

These lines have the reason behind the result we got from the study done about plastic recycling in Pelawatte area. Recycling has been a major issue in the current time because the waste coming from the products we consume are leading to environmental problems such as global warming. People are being increasingly aware of recycling and mostly everyone is recycling newspaper. But has anyone thought about what happens to the plastics we consume? Plastics are a part of our daily life because water bottles are made of plastics, milk cartons have some amount of plastic and the plastics cans that are been used. Where does this plastic go? How much waste plastic do we produce and how much this plastic is being recycled every day? These are some of the questions that people don’t think about.

Recycling newspapers isn’t the only way to help the environment. Most of the environmental problems are caused because of the non-decomposable plastic that has been left in the environment (Recycling).The study we did in the Pelawatte area showed us some big issues which aren’t being solved. We saw that out of 3 only 2 recycling centre collected plastics but only 1 didn’t heat it up whereas the other one did. Heating up the plastic releases hazardous materials in the environment and polluting it.

When asked for the reason for not collecting plastics there were 2 major reasons. First, that plastics are hard to process. The plastic recycling centres have to go through a hard step-wise-step process of separating, washing, shredding, identification and extrapolation process (Plastic). Second, there aren’t high demands for plastics compared to metals. This connects to the quote provided above. Why aren’t there enough demands for plastics? The reason is because people don’t know that there is money in waste plastic.

But still there are some people who sell plastic to these recycling centres. Now the question that arises is that, what happens to the plastic that is brought to the recycling centres? The answer is, either they are burnt off polluting the environment or taken to Wattala, but none of the recycling centres we visited know what happens to the plastic that is taken to Wattala. One of the recycling centres said that some of the plastics in their recycling centre is burned off or sold to people who want to buy plastic cans. They sell small plastic cans for Rs.8/can and the bigger cans for Rs.40-50/can. What got our mind confused was, why do they have such high difference in the prices even though the cans weren’t that different.

Looking at all the data we got we can conclude that there is a lot that has to be done regarding plastic recycling. We have to start off by making people aware of the benefits of plastic recycling and how much money that the recyclers are willing to pay (Jayawardena). Second, we have to look at what happens to the plastic that is taken to Wattala. We have to aware the people of the problems caused by burning the plastics. The final thing that we need to look forward is to atleast helo in the process of recycling. We know that recycling plastics is a hard process but if we can separate the plastics that have to be recycled we can contribute to recycling of plastic recycling (Jayawardena).

“Even one step towards progress can mean a lot”

Article Copyright Varsha Muraleedharan, 2013.

Work Cited

Jayawardena, Niranji. “Sri Lanka Promotes Waste Plastic Recycling – LANKA BUSINESS ONLINE.” Sri Lankav Promotes Waste Plastic Recycling – LANKA BUSINESS ONLINE. N.p., 3 Nov. 2007. Web. 29 Mar. 2013.

“Recycling Is a Major Issue for Us All.” Skip Hire London Recycling Is a Major Issue for Us All Comments. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Mar. 2013.

“5 Stages of the Plastic Recycling Process.” Free Press Release Distribution Service. N.p., 27 Oct. 2011. Web. 29 Mar. 2013.

Written by recycling1011

2013-06-03 at 6:33 AM