OSC Recycling & Sustainability Service Group

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

Posts Tagged ‘sustainability

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.

 

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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

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

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

Leadership Transitions in 2015

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March 2015 group shot of  the Recycling & Sustainability activity. (Below) Nandini, Nisala, Yoon Jae and Nishant getting a typical Thursday afternoon session going.

March 2015 group shot of the Recycling & Sustainability activity. (Below) Nandini, Nisala, Yoon Jae and Nishant getting a typical Thursday afternoon session going.

This week marks an important point in the service calendar. DPII (senior) students are about to step back from leadership positions and turn over the reins to younger students. In the Recycling & Sustainability service activity Yoon Jae Hwang and Nishant Matthew from the Class of 2015 have both served the group with distinction. They have led from the trenches and modeled excellent approaches to achieving the group’s mission of reducing the school’s ecological footprint. Aside from managing the weekly recycling rounds and paper/cardboard sales they have helped younger students with guided reflection. We wish them well as they step back, prepare for exams and get ready to move out into the world. We are fortunate to have Nandiini  and Nisala from the Class of 2016 ready to sep into Yoon Jae and Nishant’s shoes. Both Nandini and Nisala have already served in the R&S service activity for several years and bring their own  strengths and ideas to the group.

Borrowed form Mr. Lockwood's recent blog post. OSC recycling in action (from the top): Students in the Thursday afternoon R&S service activity collect and sort paper, cardboard and other materials outside the recycling room near the gym. DP Geography students weigh and sell cardboard to our main scrap dealer buyer who will resell it for recycling in India. DP R&S student leaders Nisala, Nandini and Nishant work with younger students on a reflection at the end of the Thursday service session. Data about patterns in consumption and recycling is gathered and analyzed as a key part of this activity.

(Borrowed from Mr. Lockwood’s recent blog post).OSC recycling in action (from the top): Students in the Thursday afternoon R&S service activity collect and sort paper, cardboard and other materials outside the recycling room near the gym. DP Geography students weigh and sell cardboard to our main scrap dealer buyer who will resell it for recycling in India. DP R&S student leaders Nisala, Nishant and Nandini work with younger students on a reflection at the end of the Thursday service session. Data about patterns in consumption and recycling is gathered and analyzed as a key part of this activity.

Written by recycling1011

2015-03-24 at 8:52 PM