This is something that is rarely properly addressed by the university community, and more needs to be done. I’m well aware that all students have moved out of their accommodations for the summer. But when I saw a BBC article about this a few days ago, I thought a perspective on Leicester would be worthwhile, especially since I’ve seen this first hand.
First off, fly tipping is defined as “illegally dumping waste”. This includes leaving rubbish outside of waste bins or your wheelie bin, which happens a lot when students move out of their accommodations.
In the BBC news article, it described how students in Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds & Coventry had left huge piles of rubbish outside their former homes. In Leicester, it’s no different story really.
In the week I was packing up to move to my new house, I noticed huge piles of rubbish lining my street. Just next door, I counted 10 bags full of waste that had been thrown out by the students who lived there and hadn’t bothered to do anything with it! Out of my own house, the amount thrown out was less, but still significant to cause our bin to overflow. I can’t say I was proud of it, but it was difficult to gauge how much rubbish would be produced in a house of 6 people at the end of our first tenancy. Thankfully, the bin collectors for my street were quite kind, and had taken all our rubbish in the past when the bin was overflowing.
However, bin collectors shouldn’t have to collect more than is allocated to each house – it’s likely more rubbish will delay them and affect their work performance. Furthermore, all that rubbish piling up is likely to attract rats and cause serious problems for the local environment.
So, who’s to blame?
Obviously, students have to accept some of the blame as it is their responsibility to remove any of the excess rubbish. But, we must also remember that it can be difficult for students to remove this rubbish responsibly. A lot of students don’t have access to a car, and most waste sorting sites are not within a reasonable walking distance, especially if you’re carrying rubbish.
In Leicester, the city council have decided to take on the responsibility to remove this waste, offering to make special collections in student areas, IF IT WAS REQUESTED. Knowing students being ‘less-than-proactive’, I imagine few took up this offer, especially since the council promoted it as a collection of ‘ large household items’, rather than just anything that was left behind. The scheme is definitely a good starting point, but needs some improvement if the council wants to deal with the problem as efficiently as possible.
Are the universities to blame? While most universities pride themselves on being pioneers of waste reduction, this usually doesn’t extend beyond their own campuses. As a Residential Adviser, I helped to sort through the food and clothing donations for the British Red Cross and British Heart Foundation. A lot of of food and clothing is left behind by students, but we also encourage them to use the opportunity to be charitable. The end of year donation is a great scheme run by the University of Leicester, but beyond this, there is no help for students in private accommodation. The university can offer advice, but takes no active approach.
While it wouldn’t be practical for the universities to go and hire their own waste collection trucks and scout the cities, they can definitely be more encouraging and support donation schemes outside of the university better.
Certainly, the students’ union has been more successful this year in supporting students while living in private accommodation. Now, the university/ students’ union need to set up new schemes for their students leaving private accommodation.