OSC Recycling & Sustainability Service Group

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

Posts Tagged ‘recycling

2018-19 R&S Service in Review

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Final group shot of the R&S Group for the 2018-19 School Year.

This has been an excellent year for OSC’s Recycling & Sustainability group. We enjoyed an excellent and enthusiastic team of students supported by fine student leadership from DP2 student Devin Amalean supported by Louis Gunaratne. There were several highlights:

  • We continued to provide a weekly recycling service to the community, taking in paper, cardboard and PET plastic. This is where the bulk of the group times goes to and we have a well-established relationship with our neighborhood scrap dealer. We bought used rice bags this year to put are recycled paper into and this made some of the process easier. Our earning are higher this year than a few years ago but the volume recycled is lower-we hope a result of lower consumption patterns (see graph below).

Accounts of the R&S Group looking back more than 10 years. We are recycling less volume of paper and cardboard compared to several years ago but we’re earning more money thanks to the change in value (and more likely the LKR exchange rate).

  • Energy use and renewable energy was part of the reason that we supported the introduction of a school biogas plant. This simple yet novel device turns wet food waste into useful gas for cooking. The R&S group funded the purchase and installation of the biogas plant (it was installed in October 2018). We utilized our nearly 14 years of funds raised from selling paper and cardboard to do this. (see past reflections for details).
  • On March the Recycling and Sustainability group sponsored a special OSC Environment Day. Aashika Jain had originally started this event off as a CAS project in March 2018. This year we collaborated closely with the Reefkeepers service group in the planning and execution of the event. The PYP environmental club also participated and helped out. This involved prior planning (see pictures) the focus, content and means (skits, talks etc.).

Madeleine & Devin starting off the 2nd annual OSC Environment Day on March 12, 2019. The event was a whole school assembly designed to bring attention to environmental issues with a focus on reducing solid waste on the OSC campus.

  • We produced a R&S T-shirt this year-the brainchild of DP1 student Divyanshu Thakur with support from the faculty facilitator and student leader. We printed 50 t-shirts and sold about 75% of them. The shirts feature a green footprint and the group’s name. Originally, they were supposed to have a message encouraging the community to reduce, reuse and recycle, but unfortunately this was left off on the design that was printed (!!). On Environment Day we were able to present a t-shirt to all of the maintenance staff that are involved with solid waste management. See Divyanshu’s blog reflection on the day to get an idea of the process.
  • This year several OSC classes made close curricular links with issues that the R&S service group is involved with. The DP1 Geography class conducted a neighborhood solid waste study (see post) and Camille-Anh and Jordan of the DP2 ES&S class visited both the Viridis plastic recycling facility and the E-Waste factory (see post). Those trips were learning exercises, but we also delivered OSC’s recyclables to be processed. Meanwhile Nehe and Shivani in DP1 ES&S were instrumental in running the burn tests on the biogas plant (see post).
  • The Recycling and Sustainability group has important support for the OSC maintenance crew. Mr. Imthiaz coordinates this and we have Rohan & Bandara who help drive the school truck with the recyclables every week. With the changed security situation after April we have to rely on 1-2 maintenance workers to help take the paper and cardboard to the scrap dealer on Pannipitiya Road. These folks play a key part in the success of the service group.
  • Finally. at the concluding awards assembly the R&S team of Grade 8 girls was recognized for their contributions to service at OSC. Here is the citation read by OSC’s service coordinator Ms. Linsday O’Sullivan.

“This team of MYP students go above and beyond the norm in their Community Service efforts. They work as a team, supporting and encouraging each other and their peers. All of them have done extra work, ensuring that the communities’ needs are met, even in weeks when Service isn’t officially running. They were all involved in the Environment Day assembly, demonstrating how to support green efforts at OSC. They are a force to be reckoned with as they Train to Sustain. The 2019 Community Service Award goes to Dasha Drechsel, Kevinja Karunaratne, Lexi Wiberg and Huirong Yang.”

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Written by ianlockwood

2019-06-07 at 10:33 AM

A Visit to the Viridis Plastic Recycling Plant

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According to the World Bank, 2.01 billion tonnes of municipal solid waste (MSW or SDW) are produced annually around the world (World Bank). The increase of solid waste, including the production of non-biodegradable plastic, is one of the most significant human induced problem that the world faces today. Today large amounts of discarded plastic end up in the environment-both terrestrial and marine ecosystems. Ocean plastic is responsible for serious pollution and negative impacts to marine ecosystems is well documented. A negative aspect of plastic on the environment that Sri Lanka faces is the uncontrolled burning of plastics and other solid domestic waste (SDW). There are serious health impacts of this widespread practice that are not fully understood yet. “Some plastics we know are toxic, such as poly-vinyl-chloride (PVC). PVC contains phthalates and heavy metals and creates dioxins when it burns” (Ecology Center). In Sri Lanka, solid waste has become a serious, but uncomfortable  problem for urban planners to deal with. This was brought into the public sphere when the Meethotamulla garbage dump collapsed and destroyed many homes on April 14th 2017 (Roar).  Two years on and the country is still struggling with how best to manage solid waste in the face of growing production of SDW.

Global production and consumption of plastic continuously rises in an age of sometimes contradictory development, prosperity, disparity and globalization. The challenge with plastic waste in now well documented (see links below)  and understood but the momentum of the problem and its links to consumption habits which drive economies is hard to address. The idea of recycling plastic (and other) waste has economic merits while also addressing part of the problem that countries like Sri Lanka face. Several businesses are working as recyclers in Sri Lanka. They help to manage the rather enormous amounts of single use and other plastic produced by this small island while also struggling to run a profitable business at a time when petroleum and virgin prices are relatively low.

On March 1, our DP2 Environmental Systems and Societies class visited the Viridis Recycling Plant. We spoke with Sathyajith Wijerathne, who gave us a tour of the facility. This company focuses on the recycling of plastic materials in Sri Lanka. At the moment, it is the leading plastic recycler and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) flake exporter in Sri Lanka. Waste plastic bottles and other items are collected and brought to the factory in the Templeburg Industrial Zone, Panagoda, Homagama. The company employs 30  manual workers and an additional 4 drivers. Once inside the facility the plastic is segregated and then cut into small pieces called PET flakes. “These PET flakes are [later] used as the raw material for a range of products that would otherwise be made of be made of polyester” (Viridis). Most of the plastic that they recycle is exported while a smaller percentage is used in local manufacturing in Sri Lanka.

During our visit, we had the opportunity to see what procedures were taken with the plastic they collect. The different types of plastic first have to be separated into colors and types. They are then cut into very small pieces in a machine and are later washed and dried. They are first soaked in barrels, cleaned and then water is extracted. In order to completely dry the tiny pieces of plastic, they are set on trays and are baked in a large electric oven. Finally, the many pieces of plastic are set in bags to be sent to other companies that will create products out of the recycled plastic. Most of this is exported outside of Sri Lanka.

Viridis_plastic_product_1(03_19)

Recycled Viridis plastic ready for sale. The Color of the plastics has an important influences on how much recyclers can get for their products. Clear plastic earns more.

Through this experience, we learned more about the different types of plastics, such as HDPE (for example, chairs) and HIPS (for example, computers). It is therefore important to separate plastics since they are used for different purposes.

It is important to have companies, like Viridis, that recycle plastic in order to move towards a more sustainable planet. However, recycling requires a lot of energy and thus reducing and reusing are still preferable strategies for dealing with how we consume plastics.

Article by Camille-Anh Goulet (with editing from her teacher)

Photographs  © Ian Lockwood, 2019

REFERENCES

Albeck-Ripka, Livia. “Your Recycling Gets Recycled, Right? Maybe, or Maybe Not.” New York Times. 29 May 2018. Web.

de Freytas-Tamura Kimiko “Plastics Pile Up as China Refuses to Take the West’s Recycling. “ New York Times. January 2018. Web.

Kaza, Silpa et al. What a Waste 2.0: A Global Snapshot of Solid Waste Management to 2050. Washington, DC: World Bank. 2017. Web.

Milman, Oliver. “‘Moment of reckoning’: US cities burn recyclables after China bans imports.” The Guardian. 21 February 2019. Web.

Parker, Lisa. “Planet-or Plastic?” National Geographic. June 2018. Web.

Semuels, Alana. “Is This the End of Recycling?” The Atlantic. 5 March 2019. Web.

 

Written by ianlockwood

2019-03-22 at 1:47 PM

2019 Beginnings

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

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

We have several exciting challenges ahead:

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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Written by ianlockwood

2019-02-15 at 11:52 AM

Recycling CFL Bulbs in Colombo

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Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFLs) were introduced with much hype because of their energy efficiency and longer lives. Unfortunately, they are produced using a variety of dangerous elements including mercury. If they are not recycled properly, they can be hazardous to human health. The mercury in them is the most significant concern. Here in Sri Lanka I have seen old CFLs in rubbish bins and amongst smoldering fires of mixed household waste!

Thankfully there are options to recycle CFLs here in Sri Lanka. In fact Sri lanka was the first country in South Asia to set up a CFL recycling program. The Orange company has an innovative program to recycle CFLS. They collect in many lighting and electrical shops around Colombo. At our local level, consumers can take their used bulbs down to Mr. Gunatilaka. He has been taking bulbs that the RS/TTS program collects on the OSC campus.

Location of CFL recycling options + the scrap dealer who buys paper and cardboard.

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REFERENCES & FURTHER READING

Bandara, Hansani. “The CFL bulb: A double edged sword.” Sunday Times. 25 March 2012. Web.

“Compact Fluorescent Bulbs.” Wikipedia. (a fascinating account of their origins, design and technical aspects). Web.

“Sri Lanka becomes first country in South Asia to recycle compact fluorescent lamps.” EcoBuisness. 12 August 2015. Web.

 

 

Written by recycling1011

2017-10-21 at 9:12 AM

A New Year of OSC’s R&S(TTS): 2017-18

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R&amp;S_group_1(09_17)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

REFERENCES & FURTHER READING

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Written by recycling1011

2017-10-20 at 3:17 PM

DP Geography Study of Pelawatte Recycling Operations

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Screen_Shot_2017-03-14_at_12_09_55_PM

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

2014-15 Recycling & Sustainability In Review

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The following graph highlights amounts of paper, cardboard and plastic recycled by OSC's recycling & sustainability service project. These resources are collected and sorted by students during our Thursday afternoon service block. We then take them in the school pickup to our neighborhood scrap dealer where the paper and cardboard is sold and weighed. We also collect plastic, batteries, cartridges, but we do not get paid significantly for these. Glass and metals are also collected but our numbers are not significant. Prices for recycled paper and card board have roughly stayed the same during this period (1kg of card board sells for 10 LKR and 1 kg of mixed paper sells for 5 LKR). While we have been working to recycle more of our school's waste, we are also concerned about consumption patterns and are working to educate the community about reducing these levels.  Nevertheless, there is a general decline in paper being recycled (perhaps due to lower consumption patterns as the school moves to a electronic, 1:1 teaching & learning environment).

The following graph highlights amounts of paper, cardboard and plastic recycled by OSC’s recycling & sustainability service project. These resources are collected and sorted by students during our Thursday afternoon service block. We then take them in the school pickup to our neighborhood scrap dealer where the paper and cardboard is sold and weighed. We also collect plastic, batteries, cartridges, but we do not get paid significantly for these. Glass and metals are also collected but our numbers are not significant. Prices for recycled paper and card board have roughly stayed the same during this period (1kg of card board sells for 10 LKR and 1 kg of mixed paper sells for 5 LKR).
While we have been working to recycle more of our school’s waste, we are also concerned about consumption patterns and are working to educate the community about reducing these levels. Nevertheless, there is a general decline in paper being recycled (perhaps due to lower consumption patterns as the school moves to a electronic, 1:1 teaching & learning environment).

This has been a good year for OSC’s Recycling & Sustainability service group. In fact, this is a milestone year-the 10th that the group has been functioning! This school year was marked by strong student leadership and smaller but more efficient student numbers.  The group continues to occupy itself with managing recycled paper for the campus but we also delved into advocacy this year. Here is a quick review of activities and issues:

  • We worked with the canteen on trying to reduce the usage of disposable containers that are used for snack and lunches. We had initial success with this and consumption of disposable boxes decreased. However, after some time, it jumped back, highlighting several issues.
    • Firstly, what is driving the problem is the dearth of appropriate washable containers and cutlery in the canteen.
    • Secondly, there is wide spread apathy amongst students about using disposable materials. Our student leader Nisala has come up with further proposals to deal with this modeled on his observations and ideas from seeing the way that ASB handles solid waste (including food) in Mumbai.
  • In terms of amounts recycled our data shows that the total volume is going down. At the moment we don’t have exact numbers on how much paper was consumed but my guess is that it is less. This is likely because the school is moving to do much more of its communication electronically. This year, for example, student reports were all given out electronically. The business office has promised to share data on paper consumption that will either support of refute this hypothesis.
  • Students used Managebac to do their service reflections this year. Other than simply talking about what they were doing in the activity we emphasized reflecting on broader learning and trends in solid waste issues in Colombo and beyond.
  • In April several of us accompanied the PYP Grade 5 class on a visit to the large Colombo Municipal waste dump located near Dahampura. We were able to observe dozens of truck coming into to dump unsegregated solid waste. With the support of a scientist from IWMI the students collected water sample from nearby ponds and ran basic water quality tests on it. They have approached OSC’s administration to get a bio-digester (made by Arpico) to handle our food waste. The R&S service group has committed to supporting this with money raised from paper and cardboard sold over recent years.

We close the year with an acknowledgement that there is much, much more to be done. The solid waste crisis seems to get worse here (see news articles below) but we believe that our efforts are beginning to address issues both from a consumption and recycling point of view.

Collage of snapshots fromt he waste dump at XXXX. Taken on a field visit with MYP5 students & teachers to test water in adjacent ponds & streams.

Collage of snapshots from the waste dump at Dahampura (near to north-central Colombo). Taken on a field visit in April with MYP5 students & teachers to test water in adjacent ponds & streams. (Photos courtesy the R&S faculty facilitator)

 

IN THE SRI LANKAN NEWS LATELY

“Angry Sirisena blasts officials: Clean up cities, suburbs within a week or go.”  Sunday Times. 24 May 2015 Web.

Warakapitiya, Kasun. “Garbage rots on roadsides as councils fumble for lasting solutions.”  Sunday Times. 24 May 2015 Web.

Written by recycling1011

2015-06-12 at 12:09 PM