‘You have to see it to believe it’ – Exeter councillor singles out university students for throwing away food

An Exeter councillor has blamed university students for being one of the main reasons why the city has so much food in its rubbish bins.

Unwanted grub makes up 47 per cent of the contents of black bag waste in the city – the highest number in Devon.

The figures from research in 2017 have been included in a new waste management strategy for the county, writes Local Democracy Reporter Ollie Heptinstall.

Torridge is second-highest at 34 per cent and East Devon, with only 16 per cent, is the lowest.

Exeter City Council does not yet provide separate food waste collections for households, though a limited trial is set to begin soon.

Currently, residents have to put leftovers in their general waste for collection.

But discussing the analysis, updated every five years, Councillor Rob Hannaford said many students are ‘still not stepping up to the mark in terms of their recycling and reusing’.

He added that, during his time in charge of environment and waste at the city council,

spot-checks of bin bags found ‘food and vegetables in-date, clothes with their tags still on, unworn’.

“You have to see it to believe it,” said the St Thomas representative.

“I think that is still the nub of our problem. I know the university do a lot of work on it, but I think some of it comes from the fact there are students from overseas that have got different waste collection systems – even the fact they’ve come from different parts of the country.

“But if they are going to university, I think they should know that you don’t put perfectly good food in the black bin, or they should be donating surplus clothes, books and other items to charity shops or other people that are welcoming those in need.

“I despair if they are chucking it in the black bin and messing up our waste collection, to be frank.”

Cllr Roger Croad, who presented the new strategy to Devon Couny Council’s cabinet, called on Exeter to ‘move to food waste collections as soon as is practicable’.

It was announced in July that a pilot food waste collection service would begin in at least one area of the city from the autumn.

Exeter’s recycling rate of 26 per cent is the worst in Devon.

By comparison, neighbouring East Devon recycles 61 per cent of its waste and in Mid Devon the figure is 53 per cent.

An Exeter City Council spokesperson did not respond to Cllr Hannaford’s comments, but said: “The city council is planning a trial of food waste collections in the city this autumn and the results of the trial will be carefully considered.”

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