OSC Recycling & Sustainability Service Group

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

Archive for the ‘Plastics’ Category

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.

Geo_field_study_1(03_17)

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.

Geo_field_study_5(03_17)

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.

WORKS CITED/FURTHER LINKS

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

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 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

Recycling Plastic in Sri Lanka…a 2012 update

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The author at the Battaramulla scrap yard/recycling center

Plastic is a material that can be, and should be recycled. Knowing that our planet is now beginning to run out of resources, we should instead of wasting them, begin to recycle more and think more economically friendly. Our IB Geography class from The Overseas School of Colombo made visits to the nearby collection centers to see and learn about recycling in Sri Lanka. We were introduced to the different types of recycling that take place especially in our surrounding community. Once we walked into the large mess of different collected recycling materials I straight away noticed that majority of it was metal. Plastic did not strike out, and clearly was not one of the main materials to be recycled.

After asking questions and interviewing the workers, we found out how the collection business works. Plastic recycling is a process where used up plastic is collected and separated to the different plastic types. From here, they are later melted or reprocessed into useful products. The collection centers only process the materials and then later forward them to recycling instances where it is reused rather than thrown away. The centers profit from this as they sell the plastic for a higher rate than what they get it for (buy for 25rs/kg and sell for 35rs/kg therefore profiting 10rs/kg). Individual people and companies, both, bring in recycling material that the collection centers pay for. Sri Lanka imports 160,000 tonnes of plastic raw materials each month (Sri Lanka News).This is not as much as in some countries in South Asia, but it is believed to increase in the future as Sri Lanka is to develop.

The collection centers are very specific on what they take in to be recycled. We found out that for instance plastic bags and small plastic items were not accepted by the centers. What was accepted were big plastic containers, plastic bottles and other preferably hard, big sized plastic objects. The collection centers being so particular in what they accept to be recycled, does not therefore solve the issue of trash and pollution on the streets and around us. The smaller pieces of plastic that are not being recycled as a result end up burnt or buried underground polluting the environment.

Recycling plastic is not popular in Sri Lanka just yet, but may and should be in the future. It benefits our planet as well us in the long run, so why not help now?

Work cited:

“Sri Lanka Promotes Waste Plastic Recycling – LANKA BUSINESS ONLINE.” Sri Lanka News, Economy and Business from Lanka Business Online. Web. 26 Mar. 2012.

article copyright Sara Saletro 2012

Written by recycling1011

2012-04-23 at 5:17 AM

Plastic Bags Woes in Sri Lanka: The OSC Experience

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Waiting to be recylced..this is aclually high-grade plastic that earns more money than bottles etc.

The situation with plastic bags-their production, consumption and disposal- in Sri Lanka is a “discarded” and serious issue. From the elderly to teenagers, from the wealthy to the lower class, plastic bags are mindlessly being thrown away.  Not only is this a problem in Sri Lanka but many other nations have the same problem with over-consumption and disposal.  According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency between 500 billion and a trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide each year. OSC is trying to address this epidemic of throwing away plastic bags.

The grade 11 geography class headed out to two recycling centers that the OSC Recycling and Sustainability gives its recyclables to. Although both recycling centers took in metals, plastic bottles, glass and an assortment of things, they both did not take plastic bags. Dismayed by this manner my partner and I asked the leader of the Recycling CAS in OSC what they do with plastic bags they collect. Again, we were disappointed with the response of, “We just throw them out” said Alex. It’s alarming to hear that plastic bags are not being recycled or at least reused. The data got worse when we did a survey of how OSC students treated plastic bags.

When asked on an average of how many times OSC students use plastic or cloth bags when shopping at a supermarket 18% of OSC students confessed that they use plastic bags over the cloth bags. “Occasionally my family uses the cloth bag but sometimes we forget.” was one common response used by our surveyors. When asked why they use plastic bags over cloth bags the most common response was, “Because it’s there, easy, and cheap. We don’t have to worry about it because it can be thrown away”.

Although plastic bags provide a cheap and easy way of carrying things, they are causing an impact on the wildlife and environment. It’s estimated by the TOPP organization that over 100,000 turtles and marine animals die each year due to mistaking a plastic bag as food.  Not only are plastic bags affecting the aquatic life but also the terrain life. Plastic bags are a large part of the land fill it is not so much of having plastic in the ground (although it’s estimated that a plastic bag will take about 400-1000 years to biodegrade into the ground –sadly no one will know!) but the production of them.  Producing plastic bags emit tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Sri Lanka has given a push towards reducing the amount of plastic bags used. The government has banned “thin” plastic bags (20 microns) and also tried passing a law of charging customers for using them. Many methods are being used to treat this growing problem, biodegradable bags are being produce, many retail stores such as Keels are providing cloth bags with a small fee. Although these approaches are proposing to be a better outlook, they are not enough. Only when everyone begins to do their part will we see a world without plastic bags.

Article Copyright Charity Dowers, all rights reserved 2011

Written by recycling1011

2011-05-19 at 10:01 AM

Plastic Recycling at OSC

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High quality plastic at the nearby recycling center.

Plastic has been around for hundreds of years but it is only recently that it has become both a curse and a blessing. The first form of natural plastic was invented by Leonardo Da Vinci during the Renaissance period using animal and vegetable pastes as well as organic fibers and mixing them all together (Plastic Bottle). It is a great material to hold liquids such as water, soft drinks, milk, and shampoo.   There are many more liquid commodities  that require containment by means of plastic, and that is because plastic is a considerably cheaper material to produce compared to glass.  Plastic is a great resource because it is easy to use and used for a lot, but there are significant negative aspects. Here at the Overseas School of Colombo we try our best to recycle plastic bottles. We have made a commendable progress  in recycling our plastic but, there is still a monumental task ahead.

OSC is a relatively green school but we consume large amounts of plastic. Looking at the school canteen, two to three boxes of 500ml plastic water bottles get consumed every day. There are 24 water bottles in each of the boxes, which means that our school consumes roughly 969 – 1440 water bottles in four weeks of school, which could be reduced if more people would drink from the water fountains instead. The canteen manager estimates that 40% of the plastic that is separated within the canteen is not recycled, just mixed in with the other trash where it’s simply thrown out and most probably dumped at a scrap corner on the side of the road and burnt, leading to Bisphenol (BPA) toxins in the air which are harmful to both humans and the environment (Flint).  There are many different alternatives that could reduce the amount of plastic water bottles our school consumes; one being installing filters for tap water outlets in the bathrooms so students can re-fill constantly, but there will always be issue of keeping the filters clean. Another alternative is installing more water dispensers that are easily accessible around the school. The water will then come from a company, such as American Water, which takes the water containers that we use, replace them, and then re-use them. Lastly, bringing in your own water container that you can constantly re-fill would assist in our resource conservation.

Plastic bottles are over used within our school community. Improper use and disposal can lead to series of negative effects therefore; we must reduce the consumption rate of plastic bottles within the school through use of alternatives.  Though the majority of the plastic is recycled, we could still do more to use less of the toxic materials that are harming our planet and our bodies. As a whole, there is still much to be done and little by little we can find a strategy allowing us to consume less of plastic bottles helping not only ourselves, but mother Earth too.

Article Copyright: Constanze Klempin 2011

Written by recycling1011

2011-04-22 at 3:21 AM

Posted in Plastics