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Students fall short on recycling

Half of students have said they are ‘committed recyclers’ compared to three quarters of the general public, according to survey of 50,000 students.

The survey, conducted by the National Union of Students (NUS) for Sita UK, also revealed one in ten students do not do any recycling.

The main reason – chosen by almost 40% of students - given was lack of awareness of recycling collections. Around a quarter of students said space constraints and/or no one else in their accommodation recycling were factors.

Recycling rates improved in off-campus accommodation, where recycling was seen as more convenient.

Support needed

Around half of students said they need more support to recycle “all they can” in terms of the range and volume of materials.

First year students or those living in halls were identified as those that particularly need support to improve recycling because they said their recycling decreases during term-time, according to a Sita report on the survey.

MRW recently reported that the NUS has been awarded £5m by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) to help promote green behaviours among students.

Danielle Grufferty, vice president society and citizenship for the NUS, said: “It’s through NUS programmes such as Green Impact that we strive to make students sustainably literate, and that will increase this number [of students that recycle] going forward. We are also excited to see the change that recent HEFCE funding to the Student Green Fund will bring, and look forward to the NUS union budget allocation announcement in June which will detail the year’s student green projects”

Behaviour gap

Students claimed they want to recycle more, with three quarters stating they would like to recycle to divert waste from landfill and two thirds saying that they considered recycling doing the right thing.

David Palmer-Jones, chief executive of SITA UK, commented: “Although most students are very environmentally-conscious and aware of the issues at large, this research highlights that there is a real gap between values and behaviour.”

Around a half of students said they thought increasing bin provision on campus and in their accommodation would improve recycling, and they indicated they would prefer to learn about recycling via email – although posters made more impact.

Palmer-Jones said recycling systems must be made “quick and simple” as students are increasingly forced to work and study, giving them time constraints.

‘Green austerity’ attitude

Students fare better at reuse, with 65% saying they repair their belongings. Around half donate their possessions – mainly books, clothes and shoes - to charity shops.

Palmer-Jones said: “What is great is that students are displaying a ‘green austerity’ attitude when it comes to getting the most out of some of their possessions. It’s good to see that so many students are prepared to repair things rather than simply replacing them with new, and also that they are motivated by giving unwanted items to charity in these challenging economic times.”

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