OSC Recycling & Sustainability Service Group

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

Archive for the ‘Accounts & Statistics’ Category

2016-17 Recycling & Sustainability Initiatives In Review

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The following graph highlights amounts of paper, cardboard and plastic recycled by OSC’s recycling & sustainability service project between 2008 and 2017. These resources are collected and sorted by students during our Thursday afternoon service block. We then take them in the school pickup to our neighborhood scrap dealer where the paper and cardboard is sold and weighed. We also collect plastic, batteries, cartridges, but we do not get paid significantly for these. Glass and metals are also collected but our numbers are not significant. Prices for recycled paper and card board have roughly stayed the same during this period (1kg of card board sells for 10 LKR and 1 kg of mixed paper sells for 6 LKR). While we have been working to recycle more of our school’s waste, we are also concerned about consumption patterns and are working to educate the community about reducing these levels. Nevertheless, there is a general decline in paper being recycled (perhaps due to lower consumption patterns when the school moved to an electronic, 1:1 teaching & learning environment in 2014).

This has been an important year in the work of the Recycling & Sustainability program. We had an infusion of new leadership in August and the new avatar Train to Sustain out a focus on bringing a wider circle of the community into the sustainability picture. This post is being published at the end of the school year as we look back at important landmarks and consider jobs that still need to be done in the future.

The land slide at the Meethotamulla Dump Site was a major environmental disaster in our local area. The media coverage was quite comprehensive and there had been a good deal of self- reflection on the deeper causes that led to loss of lives and property. At the time of writing it, is still unsure if the country is going to adopt the kind of policies that will address the solid municipal waste (SMW) problem and tackle it with aggressive efforts to reduce, recycle or compost what is left over.

At the school we made major headway with moving the cafeteria to be more sustainable. Significantly we eliminated all disposables: paper boxes, paper cubs, and finally straws. The credit for this is also due to the Canteen committee and Reefkepers who support the effort to eliminate disposables. The group continued to its weekly paper and cardboard collection and the results are shared above. This year we started to get paid higher rates when we delivered better segregated A4 paper and cardboard. Generally, the price was LKR 6 per kg but a few times we earned LKR 10 for paper and LKR 15 for cardboard. The school has a printing quote and we hypothesized that this has reduced overall consumption of paper. At this stage we can not comment on that since our data on paper purchased and consumed is incomplete.

We continued to build our relationship with Viridis, the country’s leading plastic recycling. The DP Environmental Systems & Societies class and several recycling leaders took a field trip to their site. Later Viridis set up a PET bottle collection point at the school. We have extended the option of recycling plastic bottles for the whole OSC community.

We still have work to do in the following areas:

  • General awareness spreading in the community.
  • Better use of the waste bins on campus. We have noted that, despite having three different bins, people are mixing what they throw away.
  • Overall reduction in the amount of solid waste generated by OSC.
  • Highlighting E-waste and doing a better job with recycling what we produce.

Several Important articles have been published about the Solid Waste crisis and ways to solve the problem in Sri Lanka. See the following references:

REFERENCES & FURTHER READING

Economic Benefits of Waste Management. Mirror Business. 2 May 2017. Web.

Maligapse, Rajith. “Sri Lanka’s Waste (Mis) Management.” Roar. 18 May 2017. Web.

Ravishan. “The Story Behind Our Solid Waste (Mis) Management.” Roar. 5 June 2017. Web.

The Garbage Economy. LMD. Web.

Weeraratne, Bilesha. “Pay as You Throw! A Solution to Sri Lanka’s Mounting Garbage Issue?” Talking Economics. 24 April 2017. Web.

Written by recycling1011

2017-06-07 at 10:19 AM

2014-15 Recycling & Sustainability In Review

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The following graph highlights amounts of paper, cardboard and plastic recycled by OSC's recycling & sustainability service project. These resources are collected and sorted by students during our Thursday afternoon service block. We then take them in the school pickup to our neighborhood scrap dealer where the paper and cardboard is sold and weighed. We also collect plastic, batteries, cartridges, but we do not get paid significantly for these. Glass and metals are also collected but our numbers are not significant. Prices for recycled paper and card board have roughly stayed the same during this period (1kg of card board sells for 10 LKR and 1 kg of mixed paper sells for 5 LKR). While we have been working to recycle more of our school's waste, we are also concerned about consumption patterns and are working to educate the community about reducing these levels.  Nevertheless, there is a general decline in paper being recycled (perhaps due to lower consumption patterns as the school moves to a electronic, 1:1 teaching & learning environment).

The following graph highlights amounts of paper, cardboard and plastic recycled by OSC’s recycling & sustainability service project. These resources are collected and sorted by students during our Thursday afternoon service block. We then take them in the school pickup to our neighborhood scrap dealer where the paper and cardboard is sold and weighed. We also collect plastic, batteries, cartridges, but we do not get paid significantly for these. Glass and metals are also collected but our numbers are not significant. Prices for recycled paper and card board have roughly stayed the same during this period (1kg of card board sells for 10 LKR and 1 kg of mixed paper sells for 5 LKR).
While we have been working to recycle more of our school’s waste, we are also concerned about consumption patterns and are working to educate the community about reducing these levels. Nevertheless, there is a general decline in paper being recycled (perhaps due to lower consumption patterns as the school moves to a electronic, 1:1 teaching & learning environment).

This has been a good year for OSC’s Recycling & Sustainability service group. In fact, this is a milestone year-the 10th that the group has been functioning! This school year was marked by strong student leadership and smaller but more efficient student numbers.  The group continues to occupy itself with managing recycled paper for the campus but we also delved into advocacy this year. Here is a quick review of activities and issues:

  • We worked with the canteen on trying to reduce the usage of disposable containers that are used for snack and lunches. We had initial success with this and consumption of disposable boxes decreased. However, after some time, it jumped back, highlighting several issues.
    • Firstly, what is driving the problem is the dearth of appropriate washable containers and cutlery in the canteen.
    • Secondly, there is wide spread apathy amongst students about using disposable materials. Our student leader Nisala has come up with further proposals to deal with this modeled on his observations and ideas from seeing the way that ASB handles solid waste (including food) in Mumbai.
  • In terms of amounts recycled our data shows that the total volume is going down. At the moment we don’t have exact numbers on how much paper was consumed but my guess is that it is less. This is likely because the school is moving to do much more of its communication electronically. This year, for example, student reports were all given out electronically. The business office has promised to share data on paper consumption that will either support of refute this hypothesis.
  • Students used Managebac to do their service reflections this year. Other than simply talking about what they were doing in the activity we emphasized reflecting on broader learning and trends in solid waste issues in Colombo and beyond.
  • In April several of us accompanied the PYP Grade 5 class on a visit to the large Colombo Municipal waste dump located near Dahampura. We were able to observe dozens of truck coming into to dump unsegregated solid waste. With the support of a scientist from IWMI the students collected water sample from nearby ponds and ran basic water quality tests on it. They have approached OSC’s administration to get a bio-digester (made by Arpico) to handle our food waste. The R&S service group has committed to supporting this with money raised from paper and cardboard sold over recent years.

We close the year with an acknowledgement that there is much, much more to be done. The solid waste crisis seems to get worse here (see news articles below) but we believe that our efforts are beginning to address issues both from a consumption and recycling point of view.

Collage of snapshots fromt he waste dump at XXXX. Taken on a field visit with MYP5 students & teachers to test water in adjacent ponds & streams.

Collage of snapshots from the waste dump at Dahampura (near to north-central Colombo). Taken on a field visit in April with MYP5 students & teachers to test water in adjacent ponds & streams. (Photos courtesy the R&S faculty facilitator)

 

IN THE SRI LANKAN NEWS LATELY

“Angry Sirisena blasts officials: Clean up cities, suburbs within a week or go.”  Sunday Times. 24 May 2015 Web.

Warakapitiya, Kasun. “Garbage rots on roadsides as councils fumble for lasting solutions.”  Sunday Times. 24 May 2015 Web.

Written by recycling1011

2015-06-12 at 12:09 PM

Small Steps: Efforts to Reduce Electricity Consumption at OSC

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Simple graph illustrating electricity consumption patterns between 2010 and 12 compared to the 2013 values. The gap between the red and blue lines signifies a drop in units consumed.

Simple graph illustrating electricity consumption patterns between 2010 and 12 compared to the 2013 values. The gap between the red and blue lines signifies a drop in units consumed.

In early 2013 electricity prices in Colombo rose dramatically causing much unhappiness amongst consumers but also forcing people and organizations to look at innovative ways to make cuts. At OSC, electricity is a major monthly cost to the school, mainly as a result of air conditioning usage and we too came up with a response. At the beginning of the 2013-14 school year the administration asked teachers to refrain from using air conditioners during the first period of the day (7:40-9:00) in an effort to reduce our electricity use. For the OSC Environmental Systems & Societies (ES&S) class, the school’s experiment in acting on a real world problem offered a unique teachable moment. Now after an analysis of electricity bills from the last 8 months the class has the data to show that a seemingly small initiative can have an impact on reducing consumption.

Electricity in Sri Lanka

Electricity in Sri Lanka is produced using a variety of sources including hydroelectric generators and thermal plants burning heavy diesel and coal. Depending on the time of year, Sri Lanka generates about 49% of its electricity from hydroelectricity (Sri Lanka energy). When it’s raining and the reservoirs in the Central Highlands are full, more power can be generated this way. When it is dry (as it is now) the country has to rely on thermal sources burning fossil fuels. In the last decade there have been calls to increase electricity production to keep up with the growing demand. This is mostly being addressed by building large-scale (300+ MW)  thermal plants. The relatively new coal-burning thermal plant in Norochcholai has been in the news because of its frequent breakdowns and concern about environmental impact from its SO2 and CO2-laden emissions.

ES&S Power Consumption Study

The students of the ES&S DP II class including Yo Kubota, Harshini Karunaratna, Jesse Doige, Sarah Ibrahim and Shabirullah Majeed conducted a study of OSC’s electricity consumption as part of a unit of global energy resources (IB ES&S Syllabus component 3.3). They looked through past copies of electricity bills (going back at least four years) and assessed what patterns could be deduced from the data. The electricity bills are complicated to analyze: There are two meters on the campus and each meter has two different reading in Units (kWh). Each of these meters has a normal 3 phase meter and a full sized transformer that reads in kVa. The two monthly  bill report on the costs and these are broken down into peak and non-peak hours. Costs, of course, have changed over the last several years as per unit prices of power have climbed. To simplify the analysis, the class looked at unites (kWh+kVa). This has its disadvantages but allowed us to compare data across the time period with the units as a fixed variable. The students looked at different aspects of the data with some of them focusing on events. I was interested in the data after August 203 when the new “no AC before 9:00” rule came into effect. The rule was enforced on a voluntary basis and some important spaces (computer labs, library, business office) did not put it into effect.

According to our data the consumption of electricity units in the main meter declined significantly between August 2013 and December 2013. Compared to the average monthly power reading on the same meter, the August 2013 to December 2013 show anywhere from -3% to -28% less in the same time period. Although there are other factors that affect monthly unit readings the data shows a clear declining trend. For example in September 2013 the unit consumption was 40,688 units (kWh) whereas the average for September had been 40,688 units with a high in 2012 of 50,560 units! This adds up to a -18% decrease in units consumed for this meter. The graphs above and table help to illustrate the findings.

Table of raw data from OSC Main Meter 2010-13

Table of raw data from OSC Main Meter 2010-13

When analyzing the data several factors need to be considered.

  • The timing of the school calendar has an impact on consumption. If the school year lets out in early June (as it did in 2013) than the monthly consumption is lower than normal (in fact June 2013 was 43% lower than the 2010-13 average). On years when the school year ended in mid-June the consumption levels show up as being higher. Number of holidays can also have an impact of monthly readings.
  • In 2013 the school replaced ACs with newer, more efficient models and it is quite likely that these changes had an impact on readings.
  • The data presented here only looks at the main school meter. The auditorium meter also accounts for a significant amount of power consumption at OSC. This has its own peaks and troughs depending on large events, numbers of assemblies etc.
  • The destination between the two sub-meters (kWa and kVa) of the main school meter needs separate analysis.

Conclusion & Epilogue

The electricity data from the OSC campus that the ES&S class has analyzed suggests that simple voluntary actions by individuals can have an impact on the overall electricity consumption of a medium sized institution like our school. Though there are several factors at play the effort of teachers and students to turn off ACs seems to have had a clear impact as seen in the decline in power consumed. This is significant as we look to take small, but meaningful steps to address our use of fossil fuels and the production of greenhouse gases. Though we didn’t look at the 2014 data, January suggests that we should not be complacent and that the “no AC before 9:00” rule needs to be further supported.

Article © Ian Lockwood with statistical verification courtesy of Britton Riehm and the OSC Math Department.

Further Links 

David, Anthony. “Country in for a shock”. Sunday Times. 4 September 2011. Print & Web.

David, Anthony. “Norochcholai adds to CEB’s losses.” Sunday Times. 4 March 2012. Web.

Fazlulhaq, Nadia and Harish Murali. “Out of the dark for the moment.” Sunday Times. 29 July 2012. Web

How your electricity bill is calculated. Web.

Sri Lanka Energy Forum. Web.

Sri Lanka Energy Profile. Web.

“Sri Lanka Energy Sector Overview.” South Asia Initiative for Energy Integration. ND. Web.

Written by recycling1011

2014-03-16 at 4:17 PM

Fresh Data on the 2013-14 Recycling Efforts at OSC

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(2010-14) Years Total (12 March 2014)An analysis of data on what we are recycling at OSC as compared to past years reveals some interesting facts. Firstly, the volume of what is being recycled is significantly down from past years. We are meeting at the same times and our approach has not changed significantly. However there are some possible explanations for the lower figures.

  • The 2013-14 data is based on August-March rather than the full school year (August-June) and thus is not yet complete
  • In the past years we have helped to recycle several large classroom cleanups that contributed to our totals. This school year we have not had any big jobs that have contributed to our amounts.
  • This year the school is moving to more electronic facilitation of teaching and learning(through Managebac, 1:1 computers etc.) and it could be that less paper is actually being used. For this to be investigated we need to access reliable data on paper being consumed (something that the business office is helping with).

It should also be noted that the OSC Canteen is separating waste that is then processed through the municipal collection service. The waste is being separated into the following categories: food waste, plastic and paper. The R&S group is not working with any of this and it is not calculated into our totals above.

Written by recycling1011

2014-03-11 at 8:19 AM

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

Looking Back…Recycling Data from the Last Four Years

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It is the end of the school year and the recycling and sustainability group is helping students and faculty to recycle as much of their left over paper and other materials. It is at times like this that international schools like OSC realize the extraordinary amount of resources that they are consuming! Our service groups’s mission continues to be aimed at both recycling materials and reducing the overall amount consumed.

This time also marks a significant transition for us as the seniors, including co-leaders Constanze and Alex as well as super-assistant Jakov, depart for university and beyond. They have been an excellent bunch of students to work with and we will miss them. Meanwhile grade 10 student Tommasso has stepped in to take the leadership reins. He has worked with the group since grade 8 and it is a great loss that he is returning to Italy this summer. We trust that he will continue to work to reduce humanity’s ecological footprint in his new Mediterranean setting! Next year we are looking forward to new leadership from Grade 11 students. Jennifer is joining our group and already showing signs of enlightened and determined  leadership.  She will be joined by Sahil, Connor, Sanjiv and others. Our backbone remains the energetic MYP students.

In an effort to keep track of patterns and trends we have graphed our data from the last four years. The graph above highlights amounts of paper, cardboard and plastic recycled by OSC’s recycling & sustainability service project. These resources are collected and sorted by students during our Thursday afternoon service block. We then take them in the school pickup to our neighborhood scrap dealer where the paper and cardboard is sold and weighed. While we have been working to recycled more of our school’s waste we are also concerned about consumption patterns and are working to educate the community about reducing these levels. We also collected plastic, batteries, cartridges, but we are paid significantly for these. Glass and metals are also collected but our numbers are not significant.

Written by recycling1011

2012-06-06 at 8:33 AM

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