OSC Recycling & Sustainability Service Group

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

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2018-19 R&S Service in Review

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Final group shot of the R&S Group for the 2018-19 School Year.

This has been an excellent year for OSC’s Recycling & Sustainability group. We enjoyed an excellent and enthusiastic team of students supported by fine student leadership from DP2 student Devin Amalean supported by Louis Gunaratne. There were several highlights:

  • We continued to provide a weekly recycling service to the community, taking in paper, cardboard and PET plastic. This is where the bulk of the group times goes to and we have a well-established relationship with our neighborhood scrap dealer. We bought used rice bags this year to put are recycled paper into and this made some of the process easier. Our earning are higher this year than a few years ago but the volume recycled is lower-we hope a result of lower consumption patterns (see graph below).

Accounts of the R&S Group looking back more than 10 years. We are recycling less volume of paper and cardboard compared to several years ago but we’re earning more money thanks to the change in value (and more likely the LKR exchange rate).

  • Energy use and renewable energy was part of the reason that we supported the introduction of a school biogas plant. This simple yet novel device turns wet food waste into useful gas for cooking. The R&S group funded the purchase and installation of the biogas plant (it was installed in October 2018). We utilized our nearly 14 years of funds raised from selling paper and cardboard to do this. (see past reflections for details).
  • On March the Recycling and Sustainability group sponsored a special OSC Environment Day. Aashika Jain had originally started this event off as a CAS project in March 2018. This year we collaborated closely with the Reefkeepers service group in the planning and execution of the event. The PYP environmental club also participated and helped out. This involved prior planning (see pictures) the focus, content and means (skits, talks etc.).

Madeleine & Devin starting off the 2nd annual OSC Environment Day on March 12, 2019. The event was a whole school assembly designed to bring attention to environmental issues with a focus on reducing solid waste on the OSC campus.

  • We produced a R&S T-shirt this year-the brainchild of DP1 student Divyanshu Thakur with support from the faculty facilitator and student leader. We printed 50 t-shirts and sold about 75% of them. The shirts feature a green footprint and the group’s name. Originally, they were supposed to have a message encouraging the community to reduce, reuse and recycle, but unfortunately this was left off on the design that was printed (!!). On Environment Day we were able to present a t-shirt to all of the maintenance staff that are involved with solid waste management. See Divyanshu’s blog reflection on the day to get an idea of the process.
  • This year several OSC classes made close curricular links with issues that the R&S service group is involved with. The DP1 Geography class conducted a neighborhood solid waste study (see post) and Camille-Anh and Jordan of the DP2 ES&S class visited both the Viridis plastic recycling facility and the E-Waste factory (see post). Those trips were learning exercises, but we also delivered OSC’s recyclables to be processed. Meanwhile Nehe and Shivani in DP1 ES&S were instrumental in running the burn tests on the biogas plant (see post).
  • The Recycling and Sustainability group has important support for the OSC maintenance crew. Mr. Imthiaz coordinates this and we have Rohan & Bandara who help drive the school truck with the recyclables every week. With the changed security situation after April we have to rely on 1-2 maintenance workers to help take the paper and cardboard to the scrap dealer on Pannipitiya Road. These folks play a key part in the success of the service group.
  • Finally. at the concluding awards assembly the R&S team of Grade 8 girls was recognized for their contributions to service at OSC. Here is the citation read by OSC’s service coordinator Ms. Linsday O’Sullivan.

“This team of MYP students go above and beyond the norm in their Community Service efforts. They work as a team, supporting and encouraging each other and their peers. All of them have done extra work, ensuring that the communities’ needs are met, even in weeks when Service isn’t officially running. They were all involved in the Environment Day assembly, demonstrating how to support green efforts at OSC. They are a force to be reckoned with as they Train to Sustain. The 2019 Community Service Award goes to Dasha Drechsel, Kevinja Karunaratne, Lexi Wiberg and Huirong Yang.”

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Written by ianlockwood

2019-06-07 at 10:33 AM

Visits to the Pelawatte Scrap Dealer

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Class of 2020 DP Geography students learning about the economics of the scrap and recycling business at our local scrap dealer.

On Monday April 1st the DP1 Geography class visited our local scrap dealer to get a better sense of what happens to school recyclables.  This short field trip followed up a longer two week field investigation  into solid waste patterns in the OSC neighborhood (see separate post). The group of eight students took several bags of mixed paper as well as some folded cardboard. The scrap dealer is based out of an old shipping container on the side of Panipitiya road. Students were able to ask a series of questions and learn more about the economics of recycling from the perspective of this dealer. We also sold our mixed paper (12kg) and cardboard (5 kg) for a grand total of 146 LKR. Students also got a chance to speak with Matt Jackson, a patron and OSC community member. He outlined what he does in terms of collecting and sorting recyclables which are deposited at the dealer. He doe not take any money for his materials.

2019 Data

2018 Data

The class has updated the buying (and selling) costs of the materials that our scarp dealer deals with in. Some prices have climbed while others have decreased since we gathered the same data last year. These are purely based on what our dealer is telling us and we know from past studies that we could probably get better prices at other locations. Our goal, however, is to reduce solid waste and not to earn more money. We remain interested in patterns of recyclables and commodity prices.

 

REFERENCES

Salman, Malaika and Dominic Harding. “Recycling Paper in the OSC and Pelawatte community: A 2018 Update.” Recycling & Sustainability Blog. 22 March 2018. Web.

Written by ianlockwood

2019-04-03 at 1:22 PM

2017-18 School Year Wraps Up

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The 2017-18 school year ended in June and the Recycling & Sustainability group transitioned to new student leadership. It was a good year with enthusiastic participation and several new initiatives that are reviewed here.

  • We continued to mange the regular weekly recycling of paper and cardboard while also facilitating plastic recycling through Veridis.
  • The group collaborated with the school’s Reefkeepers service group through the maintenance of a common informational bulletin board and collaboration on several projects including a Beach Clean up in November 2017.
  • In March the Recycling & Sustainability group sponsored an OSC Environment Day. This activity was initiative and planned by senior Aashika Jain with support form the group and faculty facilitator. It involved a school wide assembly to raise environmental awareness and then a special vegetarian lunch. Aashika liaised with the Primary environmental club and roped them into do a skit on waste separation. It was a successful venture and there is now potential to do much more in 2019.
  • In April we bid farewell to student leaders Aashika Jain and Aryaman Satish. They both completed two school years of leadership of Recycling and Sustainability under the” Train to Sustain” avatar. Both of them grew in their roles and developed leadership skills while addressing our goal of reducing the school’s ecological footprint. We trust that they will take life long lessons with them as they enter the undergraduate universe.
  • In May we worked with the head of the campus maintenance Mr. Crishan and MYP5 students Disara to investigate a campus biogas plant. The decision was made to invest in one of these to more responsibly manage our food waste on campus. It is set to be installed in August or September 2019.
  • Related to the biogas initiative the R&S group provided a new compost design (created by the service leader) to the school to better deal with leaf litter. The school has a number of trees and is currently bagging and throwing away roughly 5 garbage bags of leaves every day.
  • Our data on sales of paper shows what we have recycled and how much we have earned. From this data there is a suggestion that we are also consuming less (see below). We have also started to try to track data on how much solid waste is given to municipal collectors every week.

Recycling accounts over ten years at OSC. Note that the amount paid for recycled paper and cardboard has steadily risen. Thus even though the quantities of materials recycled has decreased, the amount of money earned is actually slowly rising.

Other Sustainability Initiatives on Campus

There have been several other sustainability initiatives on campus.

  • The Student Government Association sold glass bottled water for the first time. The issue of student groups selling water and soft drinks in PET containers was a point of conflict for many years and it was good to see this changing. This initiative was led by MY%5 student Anuda Weerasinghe who is a alum of the R&S Service group.
  • Reefkeepers worked with the Barista coffee shop t sett up a rewards scheme for customers bringing their own cups. The program was so successful that they have set up similar schemes at their other shops on the island! Barista also phased out its plastic single use cups on our campus after pressure from several members and groups on campus.
R&S_Group_Semester_2(03_18)

Semester II Recycling Group with student leaders Aryaman and Aashika in the front center.

Written by ianlockwood

2018-06-06 at 4:40 PM

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