OSC Recycling & Sustainability Service Group

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

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E-Waste Recycling Efforts in Sri Lanka: A Field Study Report

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E - Waste 1

E-Waste field study visit.

Electronic waste, otherwise known as E-Waste , involves the discarding of electronic devices. As the world is developing, the growth of electronic devices is increasing and therefore also the amount of e-waste. But with this, comes many complications to the environment. This includes:

  • Decreasing resources
  • Release of harmful toxins (ex: mercury, brominated dioxin and lead)
  • Increasing solid waste dump spaces

Hence, the importance of managing e-waste is very important especially with rising demands on electronics. In 2014 alone, there was 41.8 million tons of electronics discarded worldwide with an expected 49.8 million tons to be produced in 2018. However, only 15-20% of total e-waste is recycled worldwide. (See more.) (Leblanc)

Exploring in a canyon of old TV sets and computers destined for recycling at the Ceylon Waste Management Plant in Horona.

Sri Lanka is in an even worse state. Most e-waste is dumped with regular trash and is not separated. So its toxins are disposed improperly but is also recycled with regular plastic items. For example: children’s plastic toys are being manufactured using recycled e-waste in which some are contaminated with toxic flame retardant chemicals. (Hettiarachchi)

In order to avoid such issues of growing e-waste in dumps (such as the Meethotamulla garbage dump) and the aid in the possible future of recovering resources such as gold, copper and other valuable materials, Sri Lanka has investments in many e-waste recycling plants.

On the 12th of March 2018, the DP1 Geography students at the Overseas School of Colombo visited an e-waste management plant owned by Ceylon Waste Management. This is one of Sri Lanka’s largest e-waste factories and is aided in funding by Singer electronics. This factory receives approximately 1000 electronic pieces a day from local suppliers and exports most of its recycled materials to Europe (including the Netherlands and other European contries). In this plant, waste is treated in multiple ways. Some electronics are tested for reuse or resale. However, majority of electronics are too old to have value. Therefore, most items are salvaged for plastics, cathode tubes, copper, gold and other valuable metals.

This recycling plant is one of the first steps in a more sustainable Sri Lanka, helping reclaim valuable items while preventing environmental pollution and wasted resources.

So what can you do?

  • REDUCE: Try not to buy unnecessary electronics. Instead of buying a DVD player, use the one on a computer you may already have.
  • REUSE: If you have any e-waste that still works, resell it or give it for reuse.
  • RECYCLE: If you have any e-waste, do not throw it away. Most places in Sri Lanka have a local scrap dealers as a middle person to help manage e-waste. If you sell your e-waste, there’s a chance your waste may go to a recycling plant such as the Ceylon Waste Management factory. But if not, some value from the waste would still be recovered (and you can earn some money from this at least too.)

Works Cited

Ceylon Waste Management Co. Interview. 12 Mar. 2018.

“Electronic Waste.” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 12 Mar. 2018. Web. Accessed 21 Mar. 2018.

Hettiarachchi, Kumudini. “Experts warn of e-waste being dumped together with garbage.” The Sunday Times Sri Lanka, 7 May 2017.  Web. Accessed 21 Mar. 2018.

Leblanc, Rick. “E-Waste Recycling Facts and Figures.” The Balance, 15 Mar. 2018. Web.  Accessed 21 Mar. 2018.

Warakaptiya, Kasun. “E-waste: Turn pollution into prosperity.” The Sunday Times Sri Lanka, 31 Dec. 2017.Web. Accessed 21 Mar. 2018.


Article by Sarah Shea, Class of 2019 DP Geography class

Pictures by Lukas Hettiaratchi, Class of 2019 DP Geography class


Written by ianlockwood

2018-03-22 at 12:27 PM

Posted in E-Waste, Guest Articles

Recycling Paper in the OSC and Pelawatte community: A 2018 Update

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Pelawatte Scrap Dealer who buys OSC paper ad cardboard. Photos & collage by Dominic & Maha

As our world is developing, solid domestic waste is becoming a significant problem. Solid domestic waste (SDW) is which is garbage from industries. The production of solid domestic waste contributes a lot to air and land pollution. One common type of solid waste is paper. According to The World Counts 50% of business related waste is composed of paper. In the United States alone, 12.1 trillion sheets of paper are used every year, just for office purposes (World Counts) . That is A LOT of trees.

At the Overseas School of Colombo, there is a tradition of recycling as much of our dry waste as possible (especially paper and cardboard). Since 2005 the service group called Recycling and Sustainability (Train to Sustain) has been working with the OSC community to reduce its ecological footprint by focusing on recycling, solid waste reductions and energy saving initiatives. This group has provided each classroom in OSC  with a box to put recyclables. Every Thursday the R&S/TTS group goes around the school and collects the recyclable items. This recyclables are sorted and then transported in the school pick-up truck to a scrap dealer in Pelawatte to be sold. The scrap dealer is located 400 meters away from the OSC campus (see previous posts with maps of its location). The earnings are used to support efforts to educe the ecological footprint of the school. Plastic (mainly PET) is collected and taken to the Viridis recycling plant in Horona,


As part of our unit on resources and solid waste management, the DP Geography class visited several Colombo-based recyclers and scrap dealers. Upon arriving at the local Pelawatte scrap dealer DP 1’s geography class of 2019 (which includes Devin, Dominic, Jordan, Maha, and Sarah), led by Mr. Ian Lockwood , got an insight on what the Recycling and Sustainability service group embark on every Thursday during their service hours. Analogous to the Recycling and Sustainability service group’s ultimate goal of reducing the ecological footprint of the OSC community, the aim of this article is to raise awareness for paper management in the OSC community and to ultimately inspire those affiliated with the school to follow in the footsteps of the former generations of recyclers at OSC and take action against the rising solid waste management crisis that is still ongoing in Sri Lanka.

My first impression of the scrap dealer was that he processed more assets than he actually had the space! There were piles and piles of old refrigerators and vehicle parts lying around the outside of his shop. However, to my amazement, he still had enough room in his office (a recycled shipping container) to take in waste materials such as paper, cardboard, aluminum, and copper all at varying prices (prices in the table below) .

Scrap Dealer 2018 prices

Although the amount of money received on our part and the size of the contribution by our group to the scrap dealer was  minimal, any initiative whether large or small helps to redue the ecological footprint the OSC community . What the field visit to the scrap dealer (and subsequently the Viridis and Ceylon Waste Management company) showed us is that individuals in Sri Lanka are taking actions to help control the damage of solid waste. Through the recycling initiatives the Overseas School of Colombo is on its ways to being more of a solution that a cause of the problem.



John Keells. Plastic Cycle. Web.

Article by Maha Salman & Dominic Harding, Environmentalists & OSC Geography class 0f 2019 students

Written by ianlockwood

2018-03-22 at 12:01 PM

DP Geography Study of Pelawatte Recycling Operations

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The two recycling centers we visited (photo collage by Adrián Yáñez )

Solid waste is a global problem that is becoming difficult to manage. Most of us throw our garbage into a rubbish bin, but do we know where this garbage goes? On the 3rd of March, the DP 1 Geography class visited two recycling and scrap centers in the Pelawatte Area (near the OSC campus). They were relatively small places, but they gave the class an idea of what happens to the items that we throw away.

Solid waste management is a problem that Sri Lanka is facing, and there is only a small group of people who are working to recycle some of the items we throw away. In Colombo itself, 700 tons of garbage is collected each day (Roar), which is 58.6% of the total garbage collected in Sri Lanka (Sunday Times). To the majority of us, this value may not concern us, but where does this garbage go?

In Colombo, the garbage collected has historically been dumped at the Meethotamulla landfill, which is located 30 minutes from OSC, and has now become unusable, because of the various environmental hazards caused by the large amount of garbage dumped there. The problem in Sri Lanka is that the majority of garbage collected is not separated. Therefore it cannot be effectively recycled or disposed of. Based on a study conducted in 2012 by the Central Environmental Authority, 54.5% of the waste that is collected is biodegradable, which means that they can be composted (CSECM). If people were to compost this biodegradable waste, half of the garbage at the landfills would have never even be there. Separation is the key.

The people at the recycling and scrap centers we visited are examples of environmental heroes, who are not given the credit they deserve for the work they do. The picture below is the first recycling center we visited. It was a small place,but there is a lot of cardboard stacked out in front. All of that will be recycled. If this center was not there. That cardboard would have ended up at a landfill (or been burnt). Inside the the recycling center there were plastics, glass (bottles), and scrap metals which were all being collected to be recycled.


Weighing the paper collected from school at the first recycling center (2 minutes from OSC). This is where the Recycling & Sustainability (Train to Sustain) service group takes its paper every Thursday.

Graph showing comparative buying costs for commonly recycled items in Pelawatte (where OSC sells its items), Battaramulla and the United States. Compiled and graphed by Thiany, Yuki & Malaika.

A graph comparing prices of low-cost recycled goods (buying price) in Pelawatte (where we sell our material, Battaramulla and the US.

The people who own centers like this, are not recycling materials because they want to save the environment, instead they are doing it for an economic reason. They are able to make money off recycling materials, and by doing this, both themselves and them and the environment are benefiting from it.

Solid waste disposal is becoming a huge problem that needs proper management. A step each of us can take is separating our biodegradable waste from the rest, and compost it. This would reduce almost half of the garbage that is collected from us, and in turn reduce half of the garbage that is dumped in a landfill. The next step is recycling items such as paper, and plastic. By taking these steps, solid waste would not be such a large problem.


Concluding the field trip with reusable soft drink bottles

Article by Anaath & Adrian with contributions of the Class of 2018 DP Geography class. Data analysis and presentation by Thiany, Tuki & Malaika. Survey 123 data and analysis by Fatma, Easmond and Zoe. Photographs by Adrian and Mr. Lockwood.


Doole, Cassandra. “Garbage Separation And Recycling Are Finally Here (For Colombo, At Least).” Roar. 5 July 2016. Web.

“Garbage Collection and Recycling in the Dumps.” The Sunday Times Sri Lanka.”17 Jan. 2016. Web.

Sapra, Satyanshu. “The Business of Reincarnation – Bringing Discarded Metal Back to Life!”  Recycling & Sustainability Blog. 2014. Web.

Sustainable Approaches to the Municipal Solid Waste Management in Sri Lanka.” Municipal Solid Waste Management in Developing Countries (2016): 119-32. SECM. 13 Dec. 2015. Web.

Widanapathirana, Akash. “Biggest garbage generator tries to put house in order.” Sunday Times. 19 March 2017. Web.

Written by recycling1011

2017-03-14 at 12:35 PM

The State of Plastic Recycling in Sri Lanka: A Case Study of Viridis

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Plastic waste brought from Hikkaduwa for recycling at Viridis.

Plastic waste brought from the beach town/ tourist hub at Hikkaduwa for recycling at Viridis.

Plastic remains one of the single biggest and intractable solid waste management challenges in Sri Lanka. One doesn’t have to look too far to see plastic waste dumped along roadside or smoldering in small neighborhood fires. Currently, the Sri Lankan government as a part of their effort to improve recycling and resource management has been slowly trying to ban more of the less degradable plastic (CEA). The issue was covered by the Sunday Times and other news organizations (see links below). However, annual plastic consumption is increasing in Sri Lanka and  is set to increase from 6kg to 8kg per capita (Sunday Times). Waste management strategies not able to fully deal with the existing amount of plastic solid waste so what happens when the amount increases? This short post will look at the basic economics and geography of what is being done by a plastic recycling factory in the OSC neighborhood.

One of the largest plastic recycling companies in Sri Lanka is Viridis Pvt. Ltd. They have a fleet of 6-9 trucks that gather plastic from the most densely populated parts of Sri Lanka (from Anuradhapura in the north to Katharagama in the south). They currently buy plastic at around 20 LKR/kg but it fluctuates depending on petroleum prices (two years ago it was 40/kg). At the moment, petroleum prices are low and virgin plastic is cheap. Thus, the price for recycled plastic is relatively low. The global price for a unit of plastic has fluctuated as from 86 to 274 LKR (0.6 – 1.9 US$). Viridis collects most types of recyclable plastic such as PET bottles and higher grade plastics (buckets, toilet seats etc.). They used to collect plastic bags, but it is no longer cost effective.

OSC’s DP Geography class visited the Viridis recycling plant as part of their Patterns in Resource Consumption unit. They were joined by several members of the Recycling & Sustainability group. In fact, student leaders Nandini Hannak and Nisala Shaheed along with their faculty facilitator Ian Lockwood had made a preliminary visit in December (see their blog posts linked below). Viridis’ manager Buddhika Muthukumarana took us on a tour to show us the steps of sorting, clearing and palletization that happen in the process of recycling the plastic.

The key to plastic recycling seems to be in the economics of production and collection. At the moment the price of petroleum is low and virgin plastic (which is a byproduct of the petroleum refining process) is at one of the lowest levels (see these links: PN and FT). Thus, the price for recycled plastic has gone down significantly to the point that it is hardly a viable process to collect, clean, chip and sell it. After the eye opening tour we were left to ponder ways to consider improving the recycling business while at the same time discouraging wasteful use of plastic in Sri Lanka and other places. A key step would be to get the producers of plastic to have a larger role in the recycling or substitution of their materials. At the moment they produce an abundance of disposable items but play no role in helping society to deal with the waste! Surely this has to change as part of a broad-based solution to address solid waste challenges that Sri Lanka faces.

Article © Sadira Sittampalam & Ian Lockwood 2016

Sorting plastic based on type and color at the Viridis recycling plant.

Sorting plastic based on type and color at the Viridis recycling plant.

Portraits of Viridis employees sorting PET plastics.

Portraits of Viridis employees sorting PET plastics.

Portrait of Viridis employee sorting PET plastics.

Portrait of Viridis employee sorting PET plastics.

OSC students learning about the process and economics of plastic recycling at the Viridis plant. Buhhika, the plant manager, is giving the DP Geography class and R&S members the tour.

OSC students learning about the process and economics of plastic recycling at the Viridis plant. Buddhika, the plant manager, is giving the DP Geography class and R&S members the tour.

Plastic pellets made from recycled plastic (mainly PET) ready for export to markets (mainly in China).

Plastic pellets made from recycled plastic ready for export to markets (mainly in China). On the right are cleaned plastic bottles being readied to be chipped.

Photographs © Ian Lockwood


Works Cited/References

Christopher, Chrishanthi. “Sri Lanka among the ‘dirty five’.” Sunday Times. 17 January 2016. Web & Print.

“Garbage collection and recycling in the dumps.” Sunday Times. 17 January 2016. Web. 25 March 2016.

Hannak, Nandini. “Viridis Lanka Plastic Recycling Center.” The Nautilus (Nandini CAS blog). 4 December 2015. Web.

Plastic Pollution Coalition. Web.

Rodrigo, Malaka. “Polythene baddies hammered from tomorrow.” Sunday Times. 31 January 2016. Web. 25 March 2016.

Saheed, Nisala. “Viridis Recycling Plant Visit.” CAS: A Step Outside Shelter. 27 December 2015. Web.

Warakapitiya, Kasun. “Poor rubbish collection hatching dengue menace.” The Sunday Times. 31 January 2016. Web & Print.

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

Written by recycling1011

2016-05-31 at 12:26 PM

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

Plastic Recycling Update

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From bottles and supermarket bags to chairs and computer monitors—plastic is everywhere! So where does plastic come from? Plastic comes from organic products such as crude oil. Crude oil goes through a distillation process in an oil refinery and 2 main polymer groups which are thermoplastics and thermosets. Thermoplastics are the ones that are produced overly, used constantly. On the other hand, thermosets are plastics that cannot be undone. With all of these plastic, there should be a place where they all go when it is used.

According to The Atlantic, out of the global solid waste composition, 10% is plastic. We often use PET bottles and plastic bags because they are cheap and easily available. Now, where do they go? What do we do? Recycle! Recycling plastic is very handy and helps a lot when we reuse the material. It helps in our environment and that is what we want especially because plastic are non-biodegradable because it does not decompose. Hence, we need to act upon this issue. In Sri Lanka, recycling is not mandatory, unlike other countries. It is hard to recycle because you have to go to the recycling shops and sell your things.

In Colombo very few of the recycling/scrap shops recycle plastic. The recycling shops that do accept plastic waste only allow high-grade plastic. This may be because of the cost of it. It is more valuable than PET bottles or shopping bags. The average cost of high-grade plastic is 10 LKR per kilo while the average global cost of plastic is $50 per pound (source). Compared to other recyclable materials and from the average global cost, it is cheap to sell plastic here. These recycling shops then sell it to other countries like India and the recycling process is done there. It cannot be done here because we learnt that the Sri Lankan government does not support recycling. Therefore, we should partake in recycling plastic! Little things can make a huge difference. When we just separate plastic from other materials, it will be easier for the recycling shops to organize the materials and segregate them. We can also implement using paper bags instead of plastic bags because plastic does not decompose.

Article ©Mikka Pesigan, 2014.

Freudenrich, Craig. “How Plastics Work.” How Stuff Works. N.p., n.d. Web.12 Mar. 2014.

“Green Insider: The Truth about Plastic Recycling.”  Atlanta INtown Paper. AtlantaINtown Paper. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Mar. 2014.

“How Plastic Is Made.” The Plastics Portal. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Mar. 2014.

Thompson, Derek. “2.6 Trillion Pounds of Garbage: Where Does the World’s Trash Go?” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 07 June 2012. Web. 09 Mar. 2014.

Written by recycling1011

2014-04-07 at 12:34 PM

Recycling E-Waste in Colombo

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Jitmi E Waste_Page_1


Jitmi E Waste_Page_2

Jitmi E Waste_Page_3

Jitmi E Waste_Page_4

Guest article copyright Jitmi Pathirana 2014


Written by recycling1011

2014-03-31 at 4:23 AM