Every year, in the summer, students moving out of their accommodations is a common occurrence. And every year, shameful photos of waste dumped on the streets, beside bins, and outside houses emerge.

Locations making headlines in 2021 include Selly Oak in Birmingham and Headingley and Hyde Park in Leeds. With the bins overflowing, both used furniture and garbage have flooded the footpaths, making them impassable in parts.


The stress of moving out

Brigid Jones, a councillor for Birmingham City, the ward for Bournbook and Selly Park, tweeted that a record 200 tons of waste was picked up in one week in Bournbook in the aftermath of the student move out.

Why does this crisis keep recurring? An assumption around students and young people is that they are the more environmentally conscious generation. This expectation is not baseless — respondents in a survey led by Natural England in 2020 ranked issues facing the UK by importance. Younger people (16-24-year-olds), were more likely to rank environmental problems in their top three most important ones than older people (65 plus). So why does this conscientiousness for the environment go out the window when it comes to moving out?

From personal experience, moving out is an unusually stressful time for students. The event is often a logistical nightmare in trying to move between two properties which can be a significant distance apart. Private landlords pressurise students to leave properties in a condition better than they were found in, backed by the monetary threat of losing a deposit. This, combined with many students not having a car or the means to transport their waste to dispose of it appropriately, creates a significant temptation to dispose of rubbish incorrectly.

Perhaps students are lazy. But it is also possible that they are not adequately supported or given the resources to fight the temptation to dump.

Green Move?

With the pressure on students to clean up their act, schemes created by councils and universities to aid students moving out in an environmentally friendly manner are gaining in popularity and magnitude.

Durham University runs the ‘Green Move Out’ scheme. Reliant on volunteers, the project enables students to fill purple bags with unwanted belongings that are then collected and donated to local charities. Waste which would have been binned is instead recycled and since 2005, when the scheme started, 195 tonnes of rubbish has been collected.

Similarly, in Bath, the Student Community Partnership (SCP) offers information on waste collection and recycling days to prevent students from missing the dates. The SCP also works with the British Heart Foundation in their ‘Pack for Good’ campaign. The aim is to invite students to donate their stuff by having various locations around the city. The scheme has raised £1.5 million for the charity so far.

I benefited from Durham’s ‘Green Move Out’. When the purple bag was delivered into my letterbox, I initially did not think twice about it, and it was shoved to the side. However, a few weeks later, when I was packing up my belongings, I was suddenly very grateful for it. The bag could be filled with clothes, bedding, and tinned goods that would have otherwise gone in the bin. The most convenient part of the scheme is that the bag is left outside your front door, and volunteers collect it. It was so easy that it would have been embarrassing not to take advantage.

But other students across the country were not as lucky as me. In cities and at universities where schemes are not in place, the bins can seem like the only option for students in a rush.

Students moving out need to take responsibility and hold themselves accountable. It is unacceptable to overflow bins and dump garbage without a thought to the environment and local residents. Being clean and hygienic when moving has become even more important in light of Covid-19. But it’s also the case that students could be supported better and provided with resources to prevent the yearly dumping crisis. With there being working projects in place, if next year is going to be different, universities and councils need to do more.