Give it, don’t bin it - Student Recycling Revolution

Contributed by Emma Charlotte Richards on 25.04.2016

An Article about the Universities and Council's initiative to get students to recycle and donate what they would normally throw away. Written by Emma Charlotte Richards 

There are around 350,000 students in the Greater Manchester region, with over 100,000 of those coming from Manchester Metropolitan University, The University of Manchester, Salford University and the University of Bolton. However, with such a large student population, what happens when they move out?

With deadlines and examinations in full swing, there is one thing on students’ minds – breaking up for the summer holiday. With that, the city sees many of its students move back home until the next academic year. Having a population as highly fluctuating as this bring all of the usual challenges, but there is one issue that often seems to fly under the radar, and that’s student waste.

Renowned for being short on cash, students find firm favourites in supermarket basics, ranging from food, to electrical goods, to soft furnishings. These good are often bright, cheerful and fit to purpose, not to mention an absolute bargain in an environment where you never know if your cutlery will still be there from week to week. So when the time comes to move out, whether between academic years or at the end of their degree, due to lack of space or just lack of use, some of these goods are left behind.

Students generally are known to be poor recyclers, with much that is left behind finding itself falling victim to the rubbish bins; despite often being in good condition. The ‘Give it, don’t bin it’ student move out campaign aims to tackle this. Give it, don’t bin it is a citywide campaign, jointly run by Manchester City Council, Manchester Metropolitan University and The University of Manchester. It collects and recycles a wide variety of products, using these to support local foodbanks and the British Heart Foundation.

“Last year an amazing 169 tonnes of items were donated to the British Heart Foundation, which raised around £322,000!” (Manchester Metropolitan University, 2016)

The campaign involves providing information packs to students to help them understand what can be donated, as well as offering advice on how to correctly recycle items that cannot. It also supply’s specific donation points in the student’s residential areas to increase the ease at which they can recycle their unwanted belongings. In addition to this, the scheme also has short, fun facts to inform students about the positive impacts that their recycling can have; providing further encouragement to those who may not knowingly be partaking in the campaign.

Accessibility is proven to be of the utmost importance in regards to recycling; people of all ages recycle much more when the facilities available to them are of a better standard and well serviced.

“In June 2011 the Council introduced a new waste and recycling service which prioritised the collection of recycling by providing Manchester residents a weekly recycling service and a fortnightly residual waste service. Since 2009/10 the city’s recycling rate has increased from 19% to 36% (2012/13).” (Manchester City Council, 2015)

Manchester as a whole has shown time and time again that if the infrastructure is available, the people will follow; creating a more sustainable society. Give it, don’t bin it comes off the back of Manchester Metropolitan University and The University of Manchester’s Zero Waste collaboration; and is yet another great example of this, bringing the facilities to the students to improve ease of access. Zero Waste saw the universities become finalists at the Green Gown Awards 2015, for community innovation.

Other projects as a part of Zero Waste have included the widely successful POP Swap, MMU’s termly clothing and book exchange. Supporting the community with unwanted items left over from the swap going to local charities including Goodstock, by youth charity vInspired, and Mustard Tree supporting Manchester's homeless community.

In 2016, the Give it, don’t bin it campaign is hoping to surpass its donations from the previous year, recycling much of the students’ unwanted goods and creating a positive environmental impact from the move out period.