OSC Recycling & Sustainability Service Group

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

OSC Canteen Solid Waste Reduction Initiative

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Scenes form the OSC canteen: paper boxes on sale at the end of 2014, disposable cups: the target of a future campaign? and boxes with foot waste being disposed of.

Scenes form the OSC canteen: paper boxes on sale at the end of 2014, disposable cups: the target of a future campaign (?) and boxes with food waste being disposed of. The goals of the paper box campaign was to try to get students to use them less frequently and thus reduce the mixed solid waste being produced by the cafeteria.  We used economic incentives to encourage the usage  of washable plates and penalties to discourage disposable boxes. The campaign had positive results initially, but a shortage of washable plates and ambivalence to the economic costs by older students has meant the problem has not yet been solved. (updated in March 2014)

In the last week of November 2014 our service group (OSC Recycling and Sustainability)  launched a new initiative to work to help reduce the number of disposable items consumed in the cafeteria. Our goal of this effort is to reduce solid waste by encouraging the use of reusable, washable plates and utensils. The initiative is being supported by the Student Government Association (SGA) and School Community Network (SCN- formerly the PTA) .

In the last week of November 2014 our service group launched a new initiative to reduce the number of disposable items consumed in the school’s cafeteria. Our goal is to reduce solid waste by encouraging the use of reusable, washable plates, cups and utensils. The initiative is being supported by the Student Government Association (SGA) and School Community Network (SCN- formerly the PTA). Our efforts are closely tied in with our overall goal to reduce the ecological footprint of the school. We went through a process of studying and identifying the problem, thinking up possible solutions, sharing ideas with other stakeholders and then helping to implement a plan. There are still a variety of issues to address and this is only a first step. Here are some key thoughts that came out of our brainstorming:

We identified several problems:

  • There is a widespread use of disposable containers. Disposable containers were originally designed for people to take to lunch meetings but increasingly they are used inside the cafeteria. This adds to a significant, avoidable problem of solid waste. The problem is with paper boxes (we had previously used Styrofoam- an even more problematic choice) as well as cups that are only used once and then thrown out.
  • When there were washable plates and silverware, there have been incidents of them disappearing, thus adding to the costs of running the canteen. In fact the losses are quite significant-30% to 40% a school year.
  • Students in secondary school leave soiled containers in places beyond the canteen (lockers, picnic tables etc.).
  • The labeled bins do not always work effectively and people mix food into paper and plastic or vice versa.
  • Water for washing is not an issue on our campus. We have a plentiful supply, it costs less and washing reduces solid waste.

Several ideas emerged to counter these problems. Here is what we agreed to do:

  • Charge a nominal fee for paper boxes to discourage their use and steer people towards using washable plates and cutlery. Thus there is a disincentive attached to the consumption of disposable utensils. Rukshan and Mr. Lockwood have agreed to a trial price of 20 rupees.
  • The R&S group will create a sign that highlights this initiative from the point of view of trying to reduce the overall ecological footprint of OSC.  We will also put a short notice in the newsletter
  • We will start the initiative on Monday November 24th.
  • We need the support of SGA in promoting this initiative and getting “buy in” from the student body. Their job will be to deliver the message about waste reduction and not removing plates/silverware from the canteen through homerooms.
  • Rukshan will work to get more washable plates and silverware.
  • We need a bin labeled “Mixed Waste.” The usefulness of the “Tin/Metal” bins is doubtful as there isn’t a high consumption of metal or tin items.

Future thoughts:

  • In the future the school needs to invest in a better dish washing system to allow for washing of reusable plates, cups and silverware. In fact during the meeting with the SCN and Rukshan (November 11th) this was identified as a possible fund-raising objective for the Food & Fun Fair.
  • Using washable trays for serving food may help to reduce losses of items…this will need financial support from the school.
  • Use washable plastic cups for juice
  • At the meeting with the SCN we discussed having a weight scale attached to the food waste bin (like at the Borderlands camp) that would tell us how much food waste is being generated. We could use this data to encourage people not to waste food.
  • There are good opportunities to runs math/I&S  student projects to gather and analyze data from the canteen to see the impact of these initiatives and interventions.
  • The school should explore opportunities to compost our food waste using a Bio-digester (as higlighted in an earlier blog post)
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Written by recycling1011

2014-11-27 at 3:38 PM

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