OSC Recycling & Sustainability Service Group

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

Archive for February 2017

Two Steps Forward in the OSC Canteen

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Last semester the Recycling and Sustainability/Train to Sustain group worked with the Reefkeepers service group on a joint effort to reduce the use the of disposable plates. Anyone who has been following this blog will know that problems with disposable items in the canteen has been a long standing issue that we have written and campaigned about (see posts in November 2014 and February 2017). At last the momentum built up and, with the support of the canteen committee and school administration, money was set aside to buy melamine plates and cups. The changes were made without much fanfare at the end of semester 1 and we have now seen significant reductions in solid waste generated by the canteen.

We still have a residual problem of the canteen supplying disposable plastic cutlery (and cups). We aren’t sure why this is happening given the investment in nice washable silverware. There is also the issue of drinks being served in disposable cups (with plastic caps and straws). Thus, as this goes to press we have new target to address to continue making the campus more sustainable.

News bins for waster separation at OSC.

News bins for waster separation at OSC.

Another development has been the implementation of a better waste collection system. In January 2017 the school maintenance department put out a new system to better segregate solid waste on campus. They have a three tier system for a) food b) paper and c) plastic etc. This waste is collected by the maintenance department and then given to the municipal waste collectors who visit the campus twice a week. The campus community is still having difficulty separating waste and we have noted that there is a need for a campaign to have people use the bins appropriately.

Written by recycling1011

2017-02-21 at 12:17 PM

Canteen Sustainability Initiatives…again

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Waste disposal is significant concern both locally and globally. Articles in the Colombo-based Sunday Times as well as globally-oriented Guardian frequently highlight this negative aspect of our consumer culture. At OSC we are not immune to the problem and our school generates a significant amount of solid waste, especially in the canteen. In response to this challenge several groups have started an initiative to help the OSC canteen become more sustainable.

The main sustainability issue in the OSC canteen is the high volume of disposable items that are used and the poor separation when meals are finished. Most students are now using disposable cardboard boxes and plastic ware to eat their lunches. Drinks are served in disposable cups. In the secondary school students are eating in a number of places on the campus. After single use containers and plastic ware are thrown away. At the time of disposal there is no separation and thus almost every bin on campus has mixed waste of plastic, food scraps, paper and other items. Aside from this being an issue of health and safety (think of rodents, ants etc.) the mixed waste is virtually impossible to separate recyclables from. OSC’s waste is given to the municipal waste collectors in numerous bags of mixed, smelly waste. All in all, it contributes to an extra large ecological footprint for our OSC community. In a school where we emphasize the values of global citizenship the current situation with waste is an embarrassment.

The issue of disposable items was initially raised by the Recycling and Sustainability service group in 2014. Despite a study of the issue and suggestions for trying to tax disposables there has been little progress and the waste problem has festered. Since then then other groups have become interested in addressing the issue. The PYP Science activity has taken a lead in the primary school on waste issues. Reefkeepers, which draws attention to pollution of marine environments, is actively involved in pushing our community to address the issue. They made a presentation to the OSC Canteen Committee seeking support in addressing the canteen waste issue. In the past the Committee has focused on menus, diet and hygiene but is now considering sustainability issues.

To address the problem with disposables there is a clear way forward and the Canteen Committee is working to enable this. Simply put, the canteen needs to have all washable, reusable items (plates, cups, silverware). It is proposed to use washable melamine dishes with the OSC logo marked on them. This means an investment in new items and a dishwashing machine to enable quick washing and the ability to serve the school community. It also means that we need to rethink where people are eating canteen food on the campus. As of their last meeting, the Canteen committee had approached the SCN and school to allocate money for these investments. The response has been favorable and the plan is to roll out the new items at the beginning of the 2nd semester.

Simply bringing in new washable dishes is really only just the beginning of addressing the issue of OSC’s solid waste and broader sustainability challenges. Ideally we need to raise the awareness in the whole community on several areas where we can make a difference. With the support of the SGA, PSGA and the school administration the various service groups hope to draw attention to the role of individuals in helping OSC be a more sustainable community. Stay tuned for further developments.

Article by Ian Lockwood & Aashika Jain on behalf of groups mentioned above. Written in November 2016

Written by recycling1011

2017-02-18 at 1:25 PM