OSC Recycling & Sustainability Service Group

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

Archive for the ‘Beginnings & Endings’ Category

2019-20 School Year Beginnings

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The 2019-20 Recycling & Sustainability service group.

The 2019-20 is well under way and we have a new group of enthusiastic students in the service activity this year. For the first time in 15 years we have student leadership provided by Grade 9 (MYP4) students. Lexie and Darja have both been committed members for several semester of R&S and this year they are the student leaders. Diviyanshu is  playing an important role as a business advisor. He is also working on a website for the group as part of his CAS Project.

Our activities this year have fouced on paper collection but we are also spending time promoting the use of our biogas plant as a place for students and staff to put waste food. In late October and early November Lexie and Darja started collecting waste food from the canteen at the end of lunch. We cooked the first batch of popcorn using the plant in November. Sharing it around has helped draw attention to the efforts of seeing waste as a resource.

Steps in using the biogas plant to make popcorn.



Fonseka, Reka Tharangani and Priyantha Wickramarachchi. Sunday Times. “Food, waste and poverty.” 20 October 2019. Web.

Saheed, Zulfath. “Dirty Talk: Trash Woes Persist.”  LMD: The Voice of Business. ND. Web.  



Written by ianlockwood

2019-11-07 at 2:21 PM

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.”

Written by ianlockwood

2019-06-07 at 10:33 AM

2019 Beginnings

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OSC’s Recycling & Sustainability semester 1 group before the first collection of 2019.

OSC’s Recycling & Sustainability group is starting the 2nd part of the school year’ service session this week. We have a group of veteran participants, all of who have worked with us at some point in the past.

We have several exciting challenges ahead:

  • To continue working to reduce the school’s ecological footprint on campus with a special focus on solid waste reduction and separation.
  • To run an informative and produce OSC Environment Day on March 12th while also supporting the more globally focused Earth Day on April 24th. We are looking forward to working with other campus groups addressing sustainability (Reefkeepers etc.) in these endeavors.
  • To work with the school maintenance team to ensure that the new Biogas Plant is properly maintained and fed. Over the winter holidays it was neglected and so we are having to recharge it with come dung to prepare it for taking in school foot waste.

Recent Press Reports on Recycling, Sustainability & Solid Waste in Colombo & Sri Lanka

Dawoodbhoy, Zahara. “Colombo’s Unseen: Those Who Sweep Our Streets.” Roar Media. 29 January 2019. Web.

“Plastic Recycling Project in Sri Lanka.” Roar Media. 13 December 2018. Web.

Rubatheesan, Sandaran. “Concerns grow as report shows plastic killing off our fish.” Sunday Times. 10 February 2019. Web.





Written by ianlockwood

2019-02-15 at 11:52 AM

A New School Year

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The 2018-19 Recycling & Sustainability service group at the beginning of the school year.

This year we have several goals for OSC’s Recycling & Sustainability group in  the 2018-19 school year.

  • Continue to pursue our mission statement of reducing the school’s ecological footprint through active recycling and information campaigns to help reduce consumption.
  • Improve the process of waste segregation on campus. It is not working very well at the moment.
  • Promote the composting of school garden waster through the in house design of a large leaf composter.
  • Sponsor a 2nd annual Environment Day (scheduled for March 2019).
  • Facilitate the installation and maintenance of a Biogas plant. The plant is being paid for with money that the R&S group raised through the sale of paper and cardboard over the last 13 years. OSC student Disara Samayawardhena is helping and taking a personal lead in this enterprise.
  • Work with other school collaborators on achieving our goals, namely the school maintenance department and the Reefkeepers service group.
  • Promote the idea of installing solar photovoltaic panels on our roofs. This is a significant investment but we believe it will help make OSC a more sustainable campus and Ms. Chameela’s case study demonstrated that it both both economic sense and good for the environment. We are pushing the idea with the school board who commissioned a feasibility study in 2017-18.


Written by ianlockwood

2018-09-18 at 2:15 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.

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

Written by ianlockwood

2018-06-06 at 4:40 PM

A New Year of OSC’s R&S(TTS): 2017-18

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The 2017-18 Semester I Recycling & Sustainability/ Train to Sustain team with dedicated OSC students from the Maldives, Sri Lanka, India, the United States and China.

The 2017-18 school year is now well underway. The Recycling & Sustainability group has a new crop of participants but steady leadership with Aashika Jain and Aryaman Satish continuing as student leaders. This year there is good group of motivated participants with a significant number of Grade 8 (MYP III) students. We remain committed to our goal of reducing OSC’s ecological footprint while looking at other aspects of sustainability to address.

Globally, 2017 has witnessed unprecedented natural disasters, many of which may be linked to human-induced climate change. There have been hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico, floods and droughts across the world (including here in Sri Lanka), and raging fires in North America. All of these environmental issues have human dimensions both in the cause and consequences of the disaster. In a significant development  China has decided to ban the import of recycled plastic. This has serious consequences to small countries like Sri Lanka and large countries such as the USA that depend on China to send their recycled plastic to. Exactly how this impacts the recycling industry here and if it results in more waste plastic being untreated is yet to be seen.

The local and national challenge of solid waste management remains a significant concern.  The Meethotamulla dump collapse on April 14th 2017 brought the issue into the limelight here in Sri Lanka. There was growing public resolve that something be done. The government’s Central Environment Authority (CEA) ordered a ban on a variety of plastic bags as of September 1st  but this has not been successfully implemented. There is confusion about the ban and as of now you will see most commercial establishments generously giving out plastic bags. There are proposals to dump waste near Puttalam but these do not address the root problem of actually reducing the inputs.

Here are on campus we are exploring several initiatives to further reduce the campus’ ecological footprint.

  • Better separate and deal with food waste. One idea is to invest in a bio-digester. We have hesitated to push for this solution because we don’t see commitment to having a maintenance employee assigned to take care of the job.
  • Do a better job with recycling e-waste. The student leaders are looking a running a CAS Project that identifies a better way to deal with electronic waste. One thought it is that if we find a place to deal with it the school could become a community center for people to bring e-waste to. UNDP and Dialog have ideas on recycling e-waste in Sri Lanka.
  • Raise awareness on the campus. In particular, about using bins to segregate waste better.

*text & images by RS&S faculty supervisor Ian Lockwood


“China tries to keep foreign rubbish out.” The Economist. 23 August 2017. Web.

Christopher, Chrishanthi. “Drowning in waste: Garbage problems out of control. Sunday Times. 19 June 2016. Web.

Christopher, Chrishanthi. “Measures in the bag to cut vast polythene waste at supermarkets.” Sunday Times. 6 August 2017. Web.

Christopher, Chrishanthi. “Plastic industry claims and lobbying intensify, but regulator insists ban stays.” Sunday Times. 20 August 2017. Web.

Hettiarachchi, Kumudini. “Playing football with Colombo’s garbage.” Sunday Times. 14 May 2017. Web.

Kotelawala, Himal. “Polythene Ban: Should We Celebrate Just Yet?” Roar. 13 July 2017. Web.

Jayawardana, Sandun. “Govt. waste deep in its (mis)management and disposal.” Sunday Times. 26 June 2017. Web. (has Buddhika from Viridis in it)

Nafeel, Nushka. “Banning Plastic.” Daily News. 14 September 2017. Web.

“Polythene Ban Goodbye for Ever? Or Only a Temporary Measure?” Sunday Observer. 10 September 2017. Web.


Written by recycling1011

2017-10-20 at 3:17 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:


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