OSC Recycling & Sustainability Service Group

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

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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

Food Resources Consumption at OSC

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Today there is widespread concern about global warming and the mutlitude of environmental problems. Traditionally, we are bound to blame industries, automobiles and developed countries. However, have we ever thought about ourselves? If think critically, the answer will be: No! So, for the sake of our environment, we have to start from somewhere. I decided to start this from our school’s cafeteria by calculating the consumption of major selling products. This is what I got:

Figure 1: Daily consumption Source: Rukshan (canteen in-charge)

Figure 1: Daily consumption Source: Rukshan (canteen in-charge)

Figure 2: Carbon footprint of different products Sources: Tetrapak, TLC, Huffington post, How bad are bananas: The Carbon footprint of everything

Figure 2: see below

Figure 2: Carbon footprint of different products Sources: Tetrapak, TLC, Huffington post, How bad are bananas: The Carbon footprint of everything

In the figure 2, we can see the carbon dioxide emitted during the production of these products. If we calculate the total carbon emitted during 180 days of school, it sum up to 40 tonnes! And this is just from few products of canteen. This doesn’t include greenhouse gases emitted during the disposal process of these products.  The biggest challenge that we are now facing is ignorance or lack of awareness of the fact that we are emitting much more carbon dioxide than we think. Also, we are not paying for all of the destruction caused to environment because of production and disposal of these products. Environmentalists call this as ‘externalized cost’. At present, we are only paying for the ‘production cost’ which only includes cost of raw materials, manufacturing, packaging and transportation. Since, we don’t have enough ‘time’ (or we don’t bother) to force government and corporates to include this externalized cost, we need to take steps to control this externalized cost. In context of our canteen consumption, I suggest following steps:

  • Reduce plastics: At OSC, we have water dispensers that give us fresh/cold/hot water at free of cost. Despite of this facility, some people buy the bottled water from canteen. Personally, I have no idea why people do this because when we can have free water than why we want to buy the water? Not only from economic point of view, but it is harmful for us from environmental point of view. We all know that plastic are very dangerous for our environment. Not only there production is harmful for nature, but also the disposal creates much bigger environmental problems. Thus, we need to stop this practice and should consider keeping a metal or hard plastic bottle with us and refilling it using the dispensers. It is much more efficient and environmental friendly (and also pocket friendly).
  • Reduce the chicken consumption: The biggest carbon dioxide emitter of all products is chicken which emits about 6.9 kg of carbon dioxide per kg during the production. According to canteen in-charge, we consume about 20 kg of chicken per day. Since, I am a vegetarian due to religious reasons, this is too much. But from environmental point of view, the chicken in school canteen alone adds about 25 tonnes of carbon dioxide to the environment. To reduce this, we can substitute the chicken products with vegetarian products such as cheese. However, I would suggest we should become more vegetarian because it is better for the environment (you can read more at: 10 ways vegetarianism can help save the planet)
  • Use more glass bottles: According to the graph, glass bottles produce more carbon dioxide than other packaging materials. However, these are only production figures. The biggest difference between glass and other materials is that they are effectively reused and recycled which is not possible for tetrapacks and plastic bottles. Hence, we should start using more glass container over plastic containers and tetrapacks.

All these changes might look small and we might think how individual contribution will affect the planet. But big changes came from small changes. If all pledge to contribute to planet, it will certainly help in solving the environmental problems. Being environment friendly is not for the planet, it is for our own benefit.

Article Copyright Shwetank Varma, 2013.

Written by recycling1011

2013-06-03 at 7:41 AM

Paper Recycling in the OSC Community

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Recylcing OSC''s paper & cardboard near the cafeteria. Ranjit, OSC's truck driver (on left), has been assisting our activity for the last six years and plays a key role.

Recylcing OSC”s paper & cardboard near the cafeteria. Ranjit, OSC’s truck driver (on left), has been assisting our activity for the last six years and plays a key role.

Our waste: garbage, do you know where it goes? If the garbage stays in our homes for a while we tend to get irritated by the smell, but as the garbage is taken and dumped some other place, we are relieved. However, we don’t know the impact it has on the environment. Hence, we wait for the municipal government to address this issue. It’s unimaginable for the government to do something about this without our cooperation. The hard reality is that we are now generating more garbage than the earth’s system can handle. Thus, every citizen is responsible to address this issue. Usually people neglect to notice this big problem and fail to realize that saving the plant also has a commercial side that we can benefit from.

The average paper consumption per capita in Sri Lanka is about 7 kilograms per person of which only an inadequate 2 kilograms are collected for recycling based on a research carried out by, Geocyc ((Private) Limited). In the Western Province of Sri Lanka 7% of all garbage collected is paper which adds to the astounding 280 tons of paper per day, throughout Sri Lanka. Almost all commercial offices and homes burn or dispose paper by dumping it as garbage, waste paper is collected and sometimes it’s recycled, but unfortunately usually the paper is burned causing a cycle of exponential growth into damaging the environment. We cut down trees that reduce the carbon dioxide emission to make paper and then burn the paper to produce more carbon dioxide, we damage the environment on every step and contribute into the production of greenhouse gases. However, there is a solution, reduce, reuse and recycle. To decrease our impact on the environment, we must reduce our usage of paper, if we can’t do that we can reuse products and if that we can’t do, we must recycle.  To increase paper recycling in Sri Lanka Geocyc helped in the creation of the recycling industry in Sri Lanka and other foreign trade routes for recycling. Thus, adding the commercial side to further promote paper recycling.

To evaluate the paper recycling in Sri Lanka during a geography class, we collected data from three locale scrap recycling yards, about the recycling of paper in our local neighborhood Battramulla, Colombo, Sri Lanka. In one of the hub scrap recycling yards of Batramulla, Colombo, we discovered that they receive approximately one ton of cardboard in a week and one ton of paper in a month for recycling. To contribute in recycling of card board and paper, one receives ten rupees per kg of card board and paper. The local scrap yard hub then sends the card board to a company that sends the recyclable material abroad. Then, the recycling scrap yard hub makes a 50 percent profit by selling card board and paper for 15 rupees per kg. After collecting the data from the hub scrap yard, we then went to evaluate one of the branches of the hub scrap yard close to our school. Most of the procedures were similar to the Hub scrap yard except they bought paper for 5 rupees per kg while the hub bought it for 10 rupees per kg. The sub branch bought paper much cheaper than the hub. To get an even more precise data we then went to evaluate another scrap yard, there the manager bought paper and cardboard for 10 rupees per kg and he got 3 tons of card board and paper monthly and sells it at 14 rupees per kg.

  Emission of Carbon Dioxide Reduced (grams) Emission of Methane Reduced (grams) Profit of selling in SL Rupees
1 KG Cardboard




1 KG of Paper






From the data, we know that if we recycle 1 KG of Paper we save the environment of 900 grams of Carbon Dioxide and 850 grams of Methane and we earn 10 Sir Lankan Rupees and by recycling 1 KG of Cardboard we save the environment of 1,000 grams of Carbon Dioxide and 950 grams of Methane and we earn 10 Sir Lankan Rupees.  Per capita used paper in Sir Lanka according Levien van Zon’s article is 200 Kg of paper and cardboard. Which indicates that that if all of the paper was recycled (200 KG) we save the environment of 19000 grams of Carbon Dioxide and 170000 grams of Methane and we earn 2000 Sir Lankan Rupees.

Form this evaluation I didn’t only learn about the commercial side of recycling but also saw how much stuff we use and then dump as garbage, while we can recycle, get paid and contribute into making the planet be more sustainable. The further I evaluated the paper recycling, I wondered why are we not recycling more it is beneficial to everybody and everything.

Works Cited

“Garbage in Sri Lanka.” Garbage in Sri Lanka. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Mar. 2013.

Environment, Programme. “Reducing Our Waste the 3R Way.” Reducing Our Waste the 3R Way. N.p., 28 June 2009. Web. 31 Mar. 2013.

“GEOCYC (PRIVATE) LIMITED.” Welcome to Geocyc. Lanka E-Marketing, n.d. Web. 25 Mar. 2013.

“The.CO2List.org.” The.CO2List.org. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Mar. 2013.


Article Copyright Shahirullah Majeed, 2013

Written by recycling1011

2013-06-03 at 6:41 AM

Recycling of Plastics: An Update for OSC

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Weighing paper at the nearby scap dealer. Note the plastic PET bottles that he has collected. Generally it has been difficult to find buyers for OSC's plastic waste.

Weighing paper at the nearby scap dealer. Note the plastic PET bottles that he has collected. Generally it has been difficult to find buyers for OSC’s plastic waste.

The island has long had people who buy old bottles and newspapers.

Collecting old iron has also become a lucrative business to some.

But not everyone knows that there is money in waste plastic.” (Jayawardena)

These lines have the reason behind the result we got from the study done about plastic recycling in Pelawatte area. Recycling has been a major issue in the current time because the waste coming from the products we consume are leading to environmental problems such as global warming. People are being increasingly aware of recycling and mostly everyone is recycling newspaper. But has anyone thought about what happens to the plastics we consume? Plastics are a part of our daily life because water bottles are made of plastics, milk cartons have some amount of plastic and the plastics cans that are been used. Where does this plastic go? How much waste plastic do we produce and how much this plastic is being recycled every day? These are some of the questions that people don’t think about.

Recycling newspapers isn’t the only way to help the environment. Most of the environmental problems are caused because of the non-decomposable plastic that has been left in the environment (Recycling).The study we did in the Pelawatte area showed us some big issues which aren’t being solved. We saw that out of 3 only 2 recycling centre collected plastics but only 1 didn’t heat it up whereas the other one did. Heating up the plastic releases hazardous materials in the environment and polluting it.

When asked for the reason for not collecting plastics there were 2 major reasons. First, that plastics are hard to process. The plastic recycling centres have to go through a hard step-wise-step process of separating, washing, shredding, identification and extrapolation process (Plastic). Second, there aren’t high demands for plastics compared to metals. This connects to the quote provided above. Why aren’t there enough demands for plastics? The reason is because people don’t know that there is money in waste plastic.

But still there are some people who sell plastic to these recycling centres. Now the question that arises is that, what happens to the plastic that is brought to the recycling centres? The answer is, either they are burnt off polluting the environment or taken to Wattala, but none of the recycling centres we visited know what happens to the plastic that is taken to Wattala. One of the recycling centres said that some of the plastics in their recycling centre is burned off or sold to people who want to buy plastic cans. They sell small plastic cans for Rs.8/can and the bigger cans for Rs.40-50/can. What got our mind confused was, why do they have such high difference in the prices even though the cans weren’t that different.

Looking at all the data we got we can conclude that there is a lot that has to be done regarding plastic recycling. We have to start off by making people aware of the benefits of plastic recycling and how much money that the recyclers are willing to pay (Jayawardena). Second, we have to look at what happens to the plastic that is taken to Wattala. We have to aware the people of the problems caused by burning the plastics. The final thing that we need to look forward is to atleast helo in the process of recycling. We know that recycling plastics is a hard process but if we can separate the plastics that have to be recycled we can contribute to recycling of plastic recycling (Jayawardena).

“Even one step towards progress can mean a lot”

Article Copyright Varsha Muraleedharan, 2013.

Work Cited

Jayawardena, Niranji. “Sri Lanka Promotes Waste Plastic Recycling – LANKA BUSINESS ONLINE.” Sri Lankav Promotes Waste Plastic Recycling – LANKA BUSINESS ONLINE. N.p., 3 Nov. 2007. Web. 29 Mar. 2013.

“Recycling Is a Major Issue for Us All.” Skip Hire London Recycling Is a Major Issue for Us All Comments. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Mar. 2013.

“5 Stages of the Plastic Recycling Process.” Free Press Release Distribution Service. N.p., 27 Oct. 2011. Web. 29 Mar. 2013.

Written by recycling1011

2013-06-03 at 6:33 AM

Metal Recycling in the Battaramulla & Colombo areas…an Update

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Battaramulla Scrap Yard with DP Geography students conducting a survey of items and prices.

Battaramulla Scrap Yard with DP Geography students conducting a survey of items and prices.

Metal – regardless of what type – is a very important and very useful material. They used in the manufacture of many of the most important objects and gadgets we use today such as computers, cars, cable wires etc. Unfortunately, all metals are non-renewable (but recyclable) resources; which mean that once they are made, they will be there forever and take up space in our environment. Therefore, it is very important that such a substance is collected and then reused or recycled for us to make new products. It is far better than manufacturing metal from virgin ore since it takes a great deal of energy and creates a large amount of greenhouse gases to manufacture metal from scratch, while reusing or recycling them uses up very little energy and also it does not emit as much greenhouse gases compared to metal manufacture from virgin ore. The amounts of energy saved by recycling metals rather than manufacturing them from ore are 92% for Aluminium, 90% for Copper and 56% for steel (West).

Recycling metal in the Colombo district-

There are a few major organizations that have several stations in the towns and cities of Sri Lanka that work to effectively undergo and encourage recycling in the country. They work collaboratively with the services provided by the government to collect any material that can either be recycled or reused; these include: paper, plastic, glass, computer circuit boards, batteries and many other substances that are then sent to recycling centres around the respective towns and cities. One significant establishment is ‘Think Green’; which is a private owned organization that “firmly believes in eco-friendly concepts and eco-friendly products” (thinkgreen.lk). They not only collect material to be recycled, but they also encourage everyone else to do the same as well.

Whilst such large organizations exist, there are also many other minor organizations around the country that possess a similar philosophy. Here in the Colombo district alone, we see a large amount of minor establishments all around the area that collect recyclable waste such as paper, plastic and of course various kinds of metals which they then, sell to recycling centres. While most of these establishments obtain material such as paper and plastic from people who personally come there and give them away for a certain price; there are quite a few however that have employees walk around the neighbourhood with large carts to find and collect whatever waste recyclable material people have stored in their houses or garages. These include the conventional metals such as Aluminium, Iron and Copper as well as other objects such as print cartridges, broken computers and televisions.

On Monday the 25th of March, our class had the opportunity to visit three of these establishments located in the Pelawatta area. One was a fairly small shop where the entire process of collection and selling off of material to recycling centres is conducted by the owner. The other two were significantly larger bodies-one of which had all kinds of recyclable material separated and stacks up in to small hills around the shop area. The walls were lined up with broken car doors and large fragments of iron and aluminium that they have obtained from other electronic items. The most valuable recyclable metal; Copper, is obtained from old wires. They are either peeled or melted off from the plastic coating and then looped around like a lasso for storage. The other metals are simply sold off for a fairly cheap price if they are not used for the shops themselves.

The buying (from people who bring in these materials) and selling (to the recycling centres) prices for the metals are:


Buying (Rs./kg)

Selling (Rs./kg)

Aluminium 100 120
Iron 40 45
Tin 10 12-15
Copper 550-600 650

Recycling is very important for our environment, especially recycling a valuable substance such metal. They are some of the most important materials that our world possesses and recycling that we already have rather than manufacturing them from scratch saves both energy and time whilst preserving the environment.


Article copyright: Akila Liyanage

Works Cited:

“Recycling Solutions.” Recycling Solutions. Think Green, n.d. Web. 31 Mar. 2013.

West, Larry. “The Benefits of Metal Recycling: Why Recycle Metal?” About.com Environmental Issues. About.com, n.d. Web. 31 Mar. 2013.

The author conducting a survey of metal consumption and recycling in the Battaramulla area.

The author (right) conducting a survey of metal consumption and recycling in the Battaramulla area.

Written by recycling1011

2013-05-13 at 9:08 AM

Posted in Guest Articles

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