OSC Recycling & Sustainability Service Group

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

Archive for March 2016

The State of Glass Recycling in Sri Lanka: A Neiborhood Case Study

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Weigh scale with glass bottles stacked in the back at the scrap dealer near the OSC campus. He is quite picky about what he buys and only wants clear glass.

Weigh scale with glass bottles stacked in the back at the scrap dealer near the OSC campus. He is quite picky about what he buys and only wants clear glass.

From packaging, to tableware and solar panels, glass has a multitude of uses in our 21sr Century world. Glass can be moulded into many different shapes, and is made from silica-commonly found in sand. Glass is one of the most commonly consumed resources that is reused and recycled in Sri Lanka. Our DP Geography class saw this first hand on a field study near the OSC campus

Situated in small tin huts to large garage-like storage areas, the scrap dealers in Battaramulla are one of the few ways in which Sri Lanka’s garbage ends up in somewhat environmentally friendly uses. Copper, paper, aluminium, plastic and glass are all collected by these scrap dealers. In exchange for 2 LKR per kilo, the scrap dealer accepts glass; the cheapest commodity to recycle (by comparison paper sells for LKR 5). Glass is one of the easiest resources to recycle and reuse, but to what extent does Sri Lanka do this?

Glass is 100% recyclable and does not lose its value the way plastic does (Berryman). Due to the fact that glass can be shaped manually and is hard, it can be and fortunately is used for a lot of different things; especially storing food and drinks as it does not flavor its content. Glass is made mostly out of the raw material sand, and the production of glass reduces emissions. Not all types of glass can be recycled though, for example windows and panels and glass containers that are too small. They then have to go through a different process to be recycled which is not as environmentally friendly as the usual way to melt and recycle glass (Glass Packaging Institute). In Battaramulla, the scrap dealer therefore only accepts glass bottles, and this one specifically only takes clear bottles.

As a geography class we visited the scrap dealer near OSC to ask him about his business and the materials that he accepts for recycling. The small house next to the road is stacked up with cardboard, metal pieces, paper and glass bottles, mostly Arak bottles as they are clear and is a popular choice amongst Sri Lankans. An Arak bottle weighs around 200 grams, which means that he takes five bottles for 2 rupees. The glass and the other materials are then taken by a bigger corporation and later transported to India to be processed and recycled there. The problem that the scrap dealer in Battaramulla and other ones as well face is that they only get minimal support from the government, which makes it problematic for their own businesses but also for more scrap dealers to start businesses and recycle more.

The statistics of recycling of glass in Sri Lanka are limited, but there is global information available. According to Glass Products Germany is the biggest glass exporter in the world, and the US is the biggest importer of glass bottles. Not only does glass save energy by using recycled glass, but each 1000 tonnes of recycled glass that we melt saves 314 tonnes of CO2 (Berryman). Glass is made of silica sand, soda ash and limestone. While the extraction of limestone releases Carbon Dioxide into the atmosphere, it is still more environmentally friendly than most other packaging materials. Recycled glass is used in the production of new glass. Colour in glass is added by adding substances such as carbon and iron. Click on the following link to find out more about how bottles are manufactured.

Using glass bottles (as opposed to plastic) is a significant benefit to the environment, especially when technology is rapidly growing, and global warming is increasing. Using glass will reduce the amount of harmful substances that are released when using other materials for everyday uses. It is stable and is easily used and cheap. All around the world using glass would be a more environmentally friendly choice than plastics and cardboard. Glass does not only have to be recycled in factories, but it can also be reused healthily at home e.g. for containers and bottles, while cheap types of plastic get cracks and scratches where bacteria can grow. For environmental health and human health, increasing the use of glass and decreasing the use of materials like plastics and paper would help, but as a start, the simple act of recycling glass bottles would help local scrap dealers and the environment.

Article ©Anjulie Grimm 2016  (with some editing by her teacher)


Berryman. “Benefits of Glass Recycling.” World Class in Glass Recycling RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Mar. 2016.

Chan, Amanda L. “What You Need To Know Before You Reuse That Plastic Water Bottle.” The Huffington Post. n.d. Web. 06 Mar. 2016.

“Glass Bottles.” OEC. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Mar. 2016.            .

Glass Packaging Institute. Recycling. 2015. List. 3 Web. March 2016.

“Learn About Glass.” Glass Packaging Institute. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Mar. 2016.

Waste Management Unit. Sri Lanka Central Environmental Authority. Web.

Written by recycling1011

2016-03-25 at 12:03 PM

Posted in Glass, Guest Articles