Students need to do more to improve Exeter’s recycling levels, local councillors have told Exeposé – adding that waste management in general is an ongoing problem with the city’s student population.
Exeter students came under ﬁre in early January after reports of “appalling mess” left along the city’s Howell Road.
“This is purely down to students,” one Express & Echo commenter claimed. “They’re here for a good time not a long time […] It’s pure laziness and the attitude that someone else will pick it up for them.”
The mess was found outside of University term time, prompting some to question why students were being blamed.
“It is disappointing that shortcomings in the council’s refuse collection is leading to students being blamed for the mess,” VP Welfare Alec James said. “The Students Guild, University and council work hard to ensure that student refuse is dealt with responsibly.
“I meet regularly with the University and council to try and make sure this works better in future”
According to Cllr Peter Holland, there can be little doubt that students are behind the rubbish.
“I’ve gone to the trouble of getting the electoral roll out,” he said – adding that all of Howell Road’s HMOs (houses of multiple occupancy) are rented by groups with different surnames. He and fellow councillor Percy Prowse have also visited many of the houses and spoken to students living there about their concerns.
Exeposé met with Cllrs Holland and Prowse to ﬁnd out what the problem is when it comes to students and waste management. “Education and enforcement” is what’s missing, Prowse claimed.
Many students are simply not aware which rubbish goes in which bin – and what to do when they have more rubbish than they can ﬁt in their bins. In 2016, Exeter City Council introduced a new policy on “side waste” – meaning extra rubbish bags left alongside black bins will not be collected. But many students still don’t seem to know this. For Holland, this isn’t a valid excuse. “Anybody living in a HMO has had the opportunity to get it right,” he told Exeposé.
However, residents can put out as much extra recycling as they like alongside green bins – and this is where Holland and Prowse think students are falling short. Exeter City Council currently only manages to recycle around 34% of the city’s waste. The goal is 50%, Holland said – but for this to happen, students will have to get on board. Exeter’s worst areas for recycling are also those with high numbers of HMOs – in other words, student areas. This is something both councillors can attest to.
“Black bins are crammed and green bins don’t have so much in,” Holland said, while Prowse remembered: “before Christmas, I went down Hoopern Street and looked in the black bins, and found there was much more recycling in them than in the green bins.”
Both councillors are trying to make students aware of what they can recycle – and the importance of bringing their bins back in after collection day.
“This morning we came through Mount Pleasant Road and I counted 37 bins that had been left out since before Christmas,” Holland said. “There’s no litter, but they’re cluttering up the pavement. “I do understand that students have gone away for Christmas,” he said – but on his estate, “when people go on holiday, they make arrangements with somebody,” and it’s a “great disappointment” that students aren’t doing the same.
Holland was keen to stress his afﬁnity with the University. “I’ve never come across a group of more gifted, talented and able students,” he sad. However, the “transient” nature of students means getting messages across about recycling and bin protocol is hard.
“You’re here for a very short window of your lives,” he said – but added, “we are your elected members, and are here to help.”