Yesterday afternoon St Stephen’s councillor Terry Westgate and I toured part of the area of our residents’ association in to check on the refuse bins at the student houses, now that the academic year has ended.
Today is the bin collection day and we wanted to make sure that the bins were properly sorted so that they would be emptied. We don’t want to be left with a neighbourhood full of uncollected rubbish over the summer.
For the most part it was an experience of sheer squalor.
- What has been left in this phone box is dangerous and disgusting
- City universities mired in grade inflation row as number of firsts doubles
The worst was the rotting food waste – sometimes scattered on the ground where bags had been ripped open, sometimes in the recycling bin or the garden waste bin, which would mean that those bins would then not be emptied.
Quite apart from the food waste, in many cases unsorted rubbish had been chucked indiscriminately into the recycling bin or the garden waste bin.
There were very few student houses where it had been properly sorted, and we spent the best part of three hours transferring refuse into the right bins so that they would be emptied.
Even so, there were too many cases where, in the recycling bins, paper and cardboard had not been separated from cans and bottles.
We didn’t have time to deal with that, and we just have to hope that the Serco workers will stretch the rules. I pity them having to deal with it all.
I don’t want to moan about students in general. Some make an effort to do the right thing. But there are some lessons to be learned.
1. A leaflet from Canterbury City Council was delivered to student houses telling them that there would be a ‘Bin Amnesty’, but it didn’t explain what this actually meant. Most of the leaflet was devoted to explaining the scheme for recycling usable household items, but the two operations were not clearly distinguished. The leaflet from the universities was only slightly more informative. Students can’t be expected to do the right thing if they’re not properly informed.
2. Landlords have to take their responsibilities seriously. Students can’t be expected to time their departure so that it coincides with bin collection day. We met one conscientious landlord today going round all his properties and checking on the bins. If they all did that, there would be few problems.
3. The whole problem has to be addressed at an earlier stage. Many students go the whole year without ever sorting their refuse properly and putting it out on the right day, so it’s no surprise that they’re still getting it wrong at the end of the year. Universities and landlords have to make a concerted effort, at the beginning of the academic year, to educate their students and tenants about how to deal with their refuse, when to put out the bins, the importance of recycling, and how to separate the different categories of waste and recycling. In the end, too, the education has to be backed up with enforcement. And, yes, that means fines if necessary.