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Student housing providers wrongly charged for collections, says Government

Waste from student housing is being wrongly classified by some councils as commercial rather than residential materials, two years after a Government warning that the practice was unacceptable.

A number of councils charge educational establishments and private providers for collection from students’ accommodation, a move the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and Defra have described as a “clear breach of published guidance”.

Defra and DCLG originally confronted local authorities considering charging for collecting waste from students in privately rented accommodation blocks in 2013.

A joint letter from former resources minister Lord de Mauley and former communities under-secretary Brandon Lewis to councils expressed concern that there could be a rise in fly-tipping and illegal dumping if collection costs were forced on to landlords and then passed to students.

Now the Government has said it is aware that some local authorities have introduced a charge to students after wrongly classifying their waste as commercial, in response to comments by the British Property Federation (BPF).

The BPF has responded to the Government’s Cutting Red Tape consultation, running until 14 September, which looks to reduce business costs across the economy by £10bn through removing unnecessary regulation.

A spokesperson for Defra and DCLG said: “These charges not only inconvenience local residents and reduce recycling, but actively harm the environment by encouraging fly-tipping and back yard burning.

“We recognise that local authorities are best placed to listen to local people and decide what is best for their area. With this in mind, we are working with councils to promote good practice in recycling and initiatives which make recycling easier for people.”

A National Union of Students survey in 2014 found 47% of providers of student accommodation who use their local authority for waste collection were charged to some extent.

The online survey comprised 132 higher education institutes and private accommodation providers across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

A Local Government Association spokesman declined to comment directly on the issue but said: “English local authorities spend £3.8bn a year on waste collection and recycling which has increased by 400% since 2000. 

“However, councils’ budgets have been falling and this limits their ability to go further on waste prevention.”

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