How can we stop this street mess? It happens every year

editorial image

Students are leaving for the summer, throwing out their belongings, and residents are fed up. Community leaders say landlords need to take more responsibility if there is to be a solution

Fed-up residents living in areas popular with students have once again called for action to tackle the mess on their streets.

Community Association is ‘not anti-student but anti-litter

Areas such as Sharrow Vale, Ecclesall Road, Crookes and Broomhill are littered with refuse sacks and red donation bags when students move out at the end of the academic term.

With rubbish left on the street, sometimes for days on end, residents in these areas are experiencing de ja vu at the end of June and the start of July, ringing up the council to ask for the mess to be cleared.

But it’s not just your standard rubbish that gets left behind. Pots, pans, kitchen utensils and small appliances such as kettles are something seen on street pavements.

With the mess happening every year, Shelley Cockayne, a member of Sharrow Vale Community Association, said something further needed to be done.

She said the problem wasn’t an easy fix and called the mess ‘a disgrace’.

“For me, it’s about the disposable society we live in. The students come along every year, buy new pots, pans, kettles, bedding and so on and the whole lot just gets chucked out and it happens every year,” she said.

“I do think there is a lot of bad recycling that goes on.

“They put the red bags out and some of it isn’t actually the students’ fault but they put a lot of black bins out and it’s fly-tipping. But it’s the people who come round afterwards and pick through it all and just leave things all over the place.

“They don’t seem to have any regard for the mess they’re leaving behind.”

Shelley, who took photos of the mess close to where she lives did have praise for the council workmen who came out first thing on the Monday after it was reported the previous weekend.

But she said something further needed to done and thinks landlord who let houses to students should have greater responsibility for it.

“It’s disheartening every year and it’s like groundhog day. We feel as though we have to go through the whole process of complaining again and again.

“There’s some bags on my street that have been sitting there for weeks and I see it and think ‘I must ring the council’ but why is it up to us who live here all year round to do that?

“The whole process needs to be better timed - it needs to be scheduled and maybe the rubbish and red bags need to be left inside and for the council to make provisions with the landlord so they can come and get it at a specific time. I think landlords are equally as responsible. They need to make sure their tenants not only look after their house but their neighbourhood too.

“The council could start fining the landlord which in turn is taken out of the tenant’s deposit - I think a stronger message and line is needed.

Shelley, along with members of Sharrow Vale Community Association, say they’re not ‘anti-student’ but anti-litter.

Both Sheffield Hallam and the University of Sheffield said they work with the council to minimise the impact on students moving out each year.

Red bags are also sent out to properties which is aimed to curb the amount of fly-tipping. The scheme has been ongoing for 10 years and donations such as books and clothes are then made to the British Heart Foundation.

Last year, there were £120,000 worth of donations and 68 tonnes of waste was diverted from landfill and the city universities are working with food banks so students can donate unwanted food.

In a joint statement, a spokesman on behalf of both universities said: “Sheffield Council runs the Red Sack scheme to help students dispose of any rubbish that cannot be donated or recycled and will not fit in their wheely bins.

“Students are asked to leave their red sacks outside their homes and the council organises collections at least every three days over the three-week move out period.

“The donation and Red Sack schemes significantly help to organise student waste efficiently. However, we are always working in partnership to make improvements, and we will be exploring ways to prevent breakages in the bags that can attract unwanted attention.”

Sheffield Council admit the system is not perfect and the task is a big challenge every year.

Coun Bryan Lodge, cabinet member for environment and Streetscene at Sheffield Council said: “With more than 30,000 students leaving private accommodation at the end of each academic year, managing the waste left behind can be challenging. We work in partnership with the University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam University and their student unions, as well as student landlords and letting agents, to deal with student waste as effectively as possible.

“This year, our red sack service was out collecting waste every day for three weeks through the busiest student clear-out period.

“We also had numerous donation points in partnership with the British Heart Foundation, where students can drop off kitchenware, small electrical items, DVDs, books and textiles to minimise waste left in red sacks.

“At the end of the move-out period we deployed additional resources to ensure as much of the waste placed out was cleared as quickly as possible, to avoid disruption and upset to other residents.”

‘We look to see where improvements can be made’

All students receive emails from the universities explaining how to dispose of their waste, Coun Bryan Lodge said.

He added: “Sacks and information leaflets are distributed via the universities, students’ unions, landlords and letting agents.

“We acknowledge that the scheme is not perfect and not all residents use it responsibly, but we work hard each year to remove the waste as quickly as we can and review the scheme to see where improvements can be made.

“The accessibility of the British Heart Foundation donation points was one of the improvements that came out of the last review.

“We also extended our collection period for the red sacks from two weeks to three weeks, following discussions with both universities about when this scheme needed to be available.

“We will review the impacts those changes had this year.”