Impacting life at student accommodations through circular resource economy

Written by Ailish Byrne

As a Student Sustainability Architect, I have the opportunity to promote a Circular Resource Economy to the students living in the University’s Halls of Residences, by awareness of the issue of waste consumption and offering new opportunities to donate and reuse items.

In December, we held a Christmas food bank collection within the residences and encouraged students to donate any shop bought or cupboard food items, that wouldn’t be used over the holidays, with all items going to the Holbeck Elderly Aid Charity in Leeds. This event proved very popular with the students and there will be another collection at the end of the university year.

This term, as part of the University’s Single-use Plastic Free 2023 pledge, students will be encouraged and reminded to ditch disposable plastics wherever possible by bringing in their reusable items (bottles, travel mugs, bags and cutlery) with them to University. I am also holding a Plastic Free Flat competition in March where students will be challenged to avoid single-use plastic for the whole day and cook a zero-waste meal as a flat, with the best photos having a chance to win some exciting prizes.

Whilst we want to encourage students to reduce their plastic waste, we recognise that single-use plastic is sometimes unavoidable and so the University is partnering with the Brain Tumour Research and Support (BTRS) charity here in Leeds to recycle unrecyclable items! From the end of February, three new recycling bins will be placed in every accommodation to collect empty pens, crisp packets, and beauty products. These items will be sorted and sent to TerraCycle to be transformed into new products, and the money made will be donated directly to Ellie’s Fund to support brain tumour research in Yorkshire.

Fast fashion is another extremely pressing issue, particularly prevalent in our generation. The ease and convenience of shopping online results in large volumes of plastic packaging waste within the residences, much of which cannot be properly recycled. To try and tackle this issue we will be holding Spring Clean Clothes Swaps across a number of residences, where students can donate unwanted clothes and revamp their wardrobes. All remaining clothes from the event will be donated directly to the University’s partner charity, the British Heart Foundation (BHF).

This project has been very exciting and eye opening. The University is strongly committed to raising awareness of waste and the importance of living sustainably, and this role has enabled me to work closely with many students to promote sustainability and provide easy opportunities to recycle and reuse unwanted items, whilst advertising important messages directly to the students to ensure the greatest impact. Additionally, it has been great to work with and promote a number of important charities during the projects, such as BTRS, BHF and the Green Action Co-op. I am excited to continue the role and find new ways to promote waste reduction to students in 2020.