To celebrate World Wetlands Day (2nd of Feb), the OSC Reef Keepers organized a plastic patrol and brand audit around the neighbourhood of the Overseas School of Colombo. This event was open for the whole school while younger students needed to be accompanied by an adult or older student.
The goal was to:
- walk around the OSC neighbourhood and collect rubbish on the streets on three planned routes
- conduct a brand audit – sort the trash by brand and collect data to send to the organization
- send the rubbish back to the companies to hold corporations accountable and to influence them to improve their packaging and waste management
The day started early (09:00) as we needed to sign up and with that, each volunteer received gloves to pick up the trash during the walk as well as a reusable bag to take home. We were then split into three groups for the three different planned routes around the neighbourhood. I was put into the longest route which was lead by Talia (a Reef Keeper leader). Each person in the group had a bag that was used for putting the collected trash in. Once each group split we started to walk through our planned route searching for: plastic, paper, cardboard, tin can materials. After walking through small roads between houses and across the military headquarters we made our way back to school where we would meet the rest of the group in time for the brand audit.
All the types of waste collected were sorted by brand and material. All the trash was documented on a sheet of paper and pictures were taken of packaged products that were going to be sent back to the product companies. As a group total, we collected a lot of waste from around the neighbourhood. Multiple bags were needed to group glass bottles as there was an abundance amount of alcohol bottles. Once each waste type was organised into specific bags to recycle or throw and documented packaging with pictures the brand audit was complete. In the end, there were several bags of trash that we could not send back to the production companies and so, they were disposed of in school.
Overall, the plan was to go around the school neighbourhood and pick up as much trash as possible, however, being mindful of the limits. Picking trash had its limits as we couldn’t pick wet trash from the drainage as well as trash from dumpsites or burning sites. After the brand audit, anyone had the option to swim however, I decided not to. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and I’m glad to have taken part in a good thing like it. I realised that around the school there is a lot of waste being thrown everywhere despite signs saying not to do so. The overconsumption of products and the amount of unnecessary packaging is causing environmental degradation and this needs to be sorted. I hope that Reef Keepers and other service groups in the school community continue to provide opportunities like this in order to strive for a more environmentally aware future.
Plastic products are being burned around the OSC neighbourhood and around Colombo. This way of disposing of the waste is causing poisonous and harmful gasses to be released to the atmosphere. This has a negative effect on the communities living close to these dumpsites as well as the animals and ecosystems. In addition, the waste is being thrown into the surrounding environments such as wetlands, paddy fields, or forest. This is reducing the beauty that many of the natural areas in Sri Lanka bring to locals and overseas visitors like bird watchers. Around the world plastic and waste disposal is a problem that we need to improve in by raising awareness and teaching communities the ways to responsibly dispose of their waste.