Exodus Project only scratches the surface of Lancaster’s wasteful campus

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Green Lancaster’s Environmental Projects Coordinator, Darren Axe, has hailed summer 2014 as the Exodus Project’s “greatest success to date.” However, Axe also said that the project had still not fulfilled its potential, and urged the University to provide more resources and support for the project.

The Exodus Project exists to deal with the large quantity of useable household items which become redundant from student accommodation on campus at the end of each academic year. The project has been operated by Green Lancaster since summer 2010. This year, the project collected and redistributed 44 tonnes of unwanted student household items to local charities, which is believed to still be only a fraction of the amount of unwanted items thrown away by students after a year on campus.

Speaking to SCAN, Axe said that students often struggle to take home all of the items they have used at university, or simply have no need for them “back home.” “The items collected ranged from toasters to duvets and teddy bears to text books,” Axe told SCAN.

Some of the furniture collected by Green Lancaster. Photo: Darren Axe.
Some of the furniture collected by Green Lancaster. Photo: Darren Axe.

“Without the project, it is likely that most of the items collected would have been disposed of in the general waste bins on campus, as no other convenient facilities exist for their re-use or recycling,” Axe said.

The Exodus Project worked with 13 charities from across the North-West of England. The organisations involved ranged from SCOPE to Safe Net Refuge Lancaster. The RSPCA (Lancashire) collected 10.8 tonnes of unwanted items – the highest quantity of donations from the project to go to a single charity. The RSPCA’s collections included all of the former seating and coffee tables from Lonsdale Bar, as well as the perch seating from the former Venue café. “It is likely that this furniture would have been broken down (at cost to the University) by a waste recycling company if it had not been donated to the project,” Axe said. “The RSPCA has used the leather seats from Lonsdale bar to equip a new animal rescue centre reception area and the ex-Venue café perch seats will be sold by the charity to raise funds for their wild and domestic animal work.”

The old chairs from Lonsdale Bar can now be found in the reception of Lancashire’s RSPCA. Photo: Darren Axe.

This summer The Exodus Project employed 11 students, with the practical operations of the project being led by two PhD students, Joe Gardiner and David Gott.

While Axe considers 2014 to have been a successful year for the project, the Green Lancaster team equally believes that the project is only “scratching the surface” of the terrible amount of waste that is generated by students and staff at the university, and urged the University to do more to support the programme. A stark reminder of this are the images – sourced by the Green Lancaster team – of campus rubbish bins filled with mops, suitcases and other reusable items.

Some of the items collected by Green Lancaster. Photo: Darren Axe.
Some of the items collected by Green Lancaster. Photo: Darren Axe.

“Whilst the project is very positive news in terms of reducing the impact of ‘waste’ from Lancaster University, the team believe there is significant further potential to expand on operations and result in even fewer re-usable household items ending up in the waste bins across campus at the end of the academic year,” Axe said. “The project turns the principle of waste on its head, as only a very small quantity of what the project receives is not re-usable in any form.”

Axe suggested that expanding the project would also ease the University’s waste management costs, while additionally allowing for more opportunities for students to get involved in running the project.

“The team noted large quantities of potential donations in the many bin stores across campus during the collection period, indicating that there is more work to be done in terms of getting students on board and getting the positive message of Exodus out there,” Axe said.

“We believe there is potential for a much more holistic approach to the way waste is classified and dealt with at the University.”

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