Reusing and recycling text books
09-Sep-2017


The schools and educational institutes will be opening this week and book stores are already crowded with parents and students who are buying new text books, copies and stationery for the new educational year. The shopping malls are also boasting their sales from ‘back-to-school’ campaigns whereby all necessary items required by students are being sold at competitive prices with many offering good discounts. 

Bahrain boasts to have the oldest public education system in the GCC with school education being compulsory for all children. The literacy rate is well around 95% and education expenditure accounts for 3% of the country’s GDP. 

With the majority of young school going students in the country, the educational text books are required for schools, colleges and universities as well as for other vocational and training institutions. For every term or semester, thousands of new text books are being printed, bought and used. On the other hand, almost the same number of text books and course material are also being discarded after its use and find its way to the garbage bins ultimately landing at the landfill site where they are being buried, compacted and disposed occupying precious land area.

Usually these text books are not being reused or recycled, generating huge quantities of paper waste. In many of the private schools, the text books have to be bought in every term due to change in edition or minor revisions putting an extra burden on parents to buy the new books that cannot be used for their other children in coming years.

Due to rise in standard of living, it is not a common sight that the text books are being donated, exchanged, re-used or utilized by other family members. Such practices are yielding more generation of paper waste.

The initiative taken by the Ministry of Education is laudable whereby the text books have to be returned by the students after completion of the academic year and will be reused for the incoming students. This practice will conserve resources, finances and will generate less paper waste besides educating the children to reuse and recycle and taking care of the environment.

Some private initiatives have also being launched to support needy students with by providing free textbooks to them to be collected from students and parents. Many organizations are collecting and distributing these text book sets to the students, while those deemed unusable will be recycled as part of a dual program being operated by the organization in Bahrain. In addition to books, poor students will also get free stationery including notebooks, pens, pencils, erasers, rulers and sharpeners. 

There is a greater need that text books are shared and re-utilized while establishing a culture of environmental responsibility. Though such practices are being done at individual level but needs to be done at community and at school level. Text book collection boxes are to be kept and maintained at school level by the school authorities or by the parent teachers association or any NGO. In addition, students should be made responsible towards protecting the environmental resources.

In almost all developed countries, there are book banks and libraries from where the text/ course books can be purchased both used and un-used one and can be returned or resold after use. Many on-line shops are available which deliver the books at nominal cost. In addition, many charity, community and non-governmental organizations set up text books bins, booths and boxes for such purpose of books collection and re-utilization.

In line with the Government initiate, all private schools and vocational institutions should also initiate the text book re-utilization and recycling programs. The local charities and area committees can also include text book collection/ donation program within their scope, which then needs to be publicized by the local media enabling students and their parents to generously donate these books for further re-use within the country or can be exported out to other poor neighboring countries where cost of books prohibit the children to go to school. Such habits and awareness of conserving environmental resources will go a long way in inculcating environmental related habits in our younger generation who will take charge of this planet in near future.  

We need to understand that it takes around three tons of trees to make one ton of paper which also utilize huge quantity of water per ton than any other product in the world. Paper making also produces high levels of air and water pollution which can be avoided. Each ton of recycled paper can save 17 trees and 7,000 gallons of water. It takes one tree to make 25 books. By recycling our books, we are giving that tree a new purpose and reducing deforestation. 

It is suggested that schools should hold semi-annual book sales to clear out old inventory. Special bins/ containers for these books are to be made and appropriately placed in schools. We need to clear our shelves, and get unused books back into circulation. We need to understand that Recycling is a responsibility of today for a better tomorrow. 

* Head of Waste Disposal Unit, Supreme Council for Environment, Bahrain. (rahmed@sce.gov.bh) 


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