OSC Recycling & Sustainability Service Group

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

Archive for the ‘OSC Canteen Waste Reduction’ Category

Two Steps Forward in the OSC Canteen

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Last semester the Recycling and Sustainability/Train to Sustain group worked with the Reefkeepers service group on a joint effort to reduce the use the of disposable plates. Anyone who has been following this blog will know that problems with disposable items in the canteen has been a long standing issue that we have written and campaigned about (see posts in November 2014 and February 2017). At last the momentum built up and, with the support of the canteen committee and school administration, money was set aside to buy melamine plates and cups. The changes were made without much fanfare at the end of semester 1 and we have now seen significant reductions in solid waste generated by the canteen.

We still have a residual problem of the canteen supplying disposable plastic cutlery (and cups). We aren’t sure why this is happening given the investment in nice washable silverware. There is also the issue of drinks being served in disposable cups (with plastic caps and straws). Thus, as this goes to press we have new target to address to continue making the campus more sustainable.

News bins for waster separation at OSC.

News bins for waster separation at OSC.

Another development has been the implementation of a better waste collection system. In January 2017 the school maintenance department put out a new system to better segregate solid waste on campus. They have a three tier system for a) food b) paper and c) plastic etc. This waste is collected by the maintenance department and then given to the municipal waste collectors who visit the campus twice a week. The campus community is still having difficulty separating waste and we have noted that there is a need for a campaign to have people use the bins appropriately.

Written by recycling1011

2017-02-21 at 12:17 PM

Canteen Sustainability Initiatives…again

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Waste disposal is significant concern both locally and globally. Articles in the Colombo-based Sunday Times as well as globally-oriented Guardian frequently highlight this negative aspect of our consumer culture. At OSC we are not immune to the problem and our school generates a significant amount of solid waste, especially in the canteen. In response to this challenge several groups have started an initiative to help the OSC canteen become more sustainable.

The main sustainability issue in the OSC canteen is the high volume of disposable items that are used and the poor separation when meals are finished. Most students are now using disposable cardboard boxes and plastic ware to eat their lunches. Drinks are served in disposable cups. In the secondary school students are eating in a number of places on the campus. After single use containers and plastic ware are thrown away. At the time of disposal there is no separation and thus almost every bin on campus has mixed waste of plastic, food scraps, paper and other items. Aside from this being an issue of health and safety (think of rodents, ants etc.) the mixed waste is virtually impossible to separate recyclables from. OSC’s waste is given to the municipal waste collectors in numerous bags of mixed, smelly waste. All in all, it contributes to an extra large ecological footprint for our OSC community. In a school where we emphasize the values of global citizenship the current situation with waste is an embarrassment.

The issue of disposable items was initially raised by the Recycling and Sustainability service group in 2014. Despite a study of the issue and suggestions for trying to tax disposables there has been little progress and the waste problem has festered. Since then then other groups have become interested in addressing the issue. The PYP Science activity has taken a lead in the primary school on waste issues. Reefkeepers, which draws attention to pollution of marine environments, is actively involved in pushing our community to address the issue. They made a presentation to the OSC Canteen Committee seeking support in addressing the canteen waste issue. In the past the Committee has focused on menus, diet and hygiene but is now considering sustainability issues.

To address the problem with disposables there is a clear way forward and the Canteen Committee is working to enable this. Simply put, the canteen needs to have all washable, reusable items (plates, cups, silverware). It is proposed to use washable melamine dishes with the OSC logo marked on them. This means an investment in new items and a dishwashing machine to enable quick washing and the ability to serve the school community. It also means that we need to rethink where people are eating canteen food on the campus. As of their last meeting, the Canteen committee had approached the SCN and school to allocate money for these investments. The response has been favorable and the plan is to roll out the new items at the beginning of the 2nd semester.

Simply bringing in new washable dishes is really only just the beginning of addressing the issue of OSC’s solid waste and broader sustainability challenges. Ideally we need to raise the awareness in the whole community on several areas where we can make a difference. With the support of the SGA, PSGA and the school administration the various service groups hope to draw attention to the role of individuals in helping OSC be a more sustainable community. Stay tuned for further developments.

Article by Ian Lockwood & Aashika Jain on behalf of groups mentioned above. Written in November 2016

Written by recycling1011

2017-02-18 at 1:25 PM

OSC Canteen Solid Waste Reduction Initiative

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Scenes form the OSC canteen: paper boxes on sale at the end of 2014, disposable cups: the target of a future campaign? and boxes with foot waste being disposed of.

Scenes form the OSC canteen: paper boxes on sale at the end of 2014, disposable cups: the target of a future campaign (?) and boxes with food waste being disposed of. The goals of the paper box campaign was to try to get students to use them less frequently and thus reduce the mixed solid waste being produced by the cafeteria.  We used economic incentives to encourage the usage  of washable plates and penalties to discourage disposable boxes. The campaign had positive results initially, but a shortage of washable plates and ambivalence to the economic costs by older students has meant the problem has not yet been solved. (updated in March 2014)

In the last week of November 2014 our service group (OSC Recycling and Sustainability)  launched a new initiative to work to help reduce the number of disposable items consumed in the cafeteria. Our goal of this effort is to reduce solid waste by encouraging the use of reusable, washable plates and utensils. The initiative is being supported by the Student Government Association (SGA) and School Community Network (SCN- formerly the PTA) .

In the last week of November 2014 our service group launched a new initiative to reduce the number of disposable items consumed in the school’s cafeteria. Our goal is to reduce solid waste by encouraging the use of reusable, washable plates, cups and utensils. The initiative is being supported by the Student Government Association (SGA) and School Community Network (SCN- formerly the PTA). Our efforts are closely tied in with our overall goal to reduce the ecological footprint of the school. We went through a process of studying and identifying the problem, thinking up possible solutions, sharing ideas with other stakeholders and then helping to implement a plan. There are still a variety of issues to address and this is only a first step. Here are some key thoughts that came out of our brainstorming:

We identified several problems:

  • There is a widespread use of disposable containers. Disposable containers were originally designed for people to take to lunch meetings but increasingly they are used inside the cafeteria. This adds to a significant, avoidable problem of solid waste. The problem is with paper boxes (we had previously used Styrofoam- an even more problematic choice) as well as cups that are only used once and then thrown out.
  • When there were washable plates and silverware, there have been incidents of them disappearing, thus adding to the costs of running the canteen. In fact the losses are quite significant-30% to 40% a school year.
  • Students in secondary school leave soiled containers in places beyond the canteen (lockers, picnic tables etc.).
  • The labeled bins do not always work effectively and people mix food into paper and plastic or vice versa.
  • Water for washing is not an issue on our campus. We have a plentiful supply, it costs less and washing reduces solid waste.

Several ideas emerged to counter these problems. Here is what we agreed to do:

  • Charge a nominal fee for paper boxes to discourage their use and steer people towards using washable plates and cutlery. Thus there is a disincentive attached to the consumption of disposable utensils. Rukshan and Mr. Lockwood have agreed to a trial price of 20 rupees.
  • The R&S group will create a sign that highlights this initiative from the point of view of trying to reduce the overall ecological footprint of OSC.  We will also put a short notice in the newsletter
  • We will start the initiative on Monday November 24th.
  • We need the support of SGA in promoting this initiative and getting “buy in” from the student body. Their job will be to deliver the message about waste reduction and not removing plates/silverware from the canteen through homerooms.
  • Rukshan will work to get more washable plates and silverware.
  • We need a bin labeled “Mixed Waste.” The usefulness of the “Tin/Metal” bins is doubtful as there isn’t a high consumption of metal or tin items.

Future thoughts:

  • In the future the school needs to invest in a better dish washing system to allow for washing of reusable plates, cups and silverware. In fact during the meeting with the SCN and Rukshan (November 11th) this was identified as a possible fund-raising objective for the Food & Fun Fair.
  • Using washable trays for serving food may help to reduce losses of items…this will need financial support from the school.
  • Use washable plastic cups for juice
  • At the meeting with the SCN we discussed having a weight scale attached to the food waste bin (like at the Borderlands camp) that would tell us how much food waste is being generated. We could use this data to encourage people not to waste food.
  • There are good opportunities to runs math/I&S  student projects to gather and analyze data from the canteen to see the impact of these initiatives and interventions.
  • The school should explore opportunities to compost our food waste using a Bio-digester (as higlighted in an earlier blog post)

Written by recycling1011

2014-11-27 at 3:38 PM