Monash students get hard waste off the streets

Project information

  • Name: Monash International Students – Hard Waste made Easy
  • Summary: Reducing illegal dumping around Monash University
  • Lead: Monash Council
  • Location: Monash
  • Themes: illegal dumping; tertiary education; video; moving house; hard waste collection

Adapting to a new culture is part of the overseas student experience and this includes learning how to dispose of waste appropriately – especially when it’s time to go home.

“We see an increase in illegal dumping in July and December when international students from Monash University move out of their rented accommodation,” explained Anna Mezzetti, Sustainability Education Officer at Monash Council. “They see other students leaving rubbish outside and assume that’s the correct process. But our annual hard rubbish collection does not coincide with either of these dates.

“We gave students a free, on-call hard rubbish pick-up service to see if it would affect illegal dumping.”

Students key to communication

“With a huge amount of support from Monash University, we set about telling students about this new service,” said Anna. “The University used targeted channels including the off-campus accommodation unit, international student engagement unit and international student group.

“One of the most successful strategies was to employ two students from the international student group. They helped us survey students at the start, so we could work out the barriers facing the students, such as lack of transport or awareness of hard rubbish. They gave us a unique insight into the movements and behaviour of this group.

“They promoted the service to their peers using a Facebook group and word of mouth. They went door knocking in hotspot areas and left flyers. They were incredibly proactive in posting, promoting and answering questions.”

The students also participated in a short video on the correct way to dispose of hard waste.

“We also contacted real estate agents and asked them to promote the service to their tenants.”

Bookings galore

“We trialled two collection periods; one at the end of 2017 and one in June–July 2018. We received 80 and 72 bookings respectively, as well as 62 mattresses. Only 17 per cent of these collections were not put out.

“We collected 14,530 tonnes of waste over the two collection periods. Unfortunately, our audit – a visual street audit of dumping hotspots – took place well after the collection so we couldn’t measure the direct impact of our trial service on illegal dumping.

“But the interest was certainly there, and many students were keen to do the right thing, given the means to do so. The international student group gave us terrific feedback, as did staff at Monash University.”


Above: One of the international students helping out

“We still have students calling us about the collection service. We now have an on-call user pays service, although we don’t know if this will help students given that cost was a barrier to disposing of their waste.”

Simple booking process

The booking process was run using a Google form. It was simple to use and easy for the council to administer. After booking, students received an info pack about the hard rubbish service and a sticker to put on their waste, so the hard waste contractor could identify university waste.

3 Booking through Facebook

Better audits

“Due to staff changes, we could not run the audits needed before, during and after each collection service,” said Anna. “This would have given us concrete data. If we ran a similar project, we would build these audits into the project plan with the waste team and make sure they understand why this needs to happen.

“We offered the service to all Monash students, not just those in dumping hotspots.

Although we wouldn’t change this, we would need to think about how we measure program results in areas outside the audited hotspots.”

New partnerships to tackle litter and illegal dumping in the future

“Thanks to this project, we have a new channel of communication with Monash,” explained Anna. “We are still working with the University and students on litter and illegal dumping issues. We are currently working with the international student group on a letterbox project, distributing ‘no junk mail’ stickers to reduce overflowing letterboxes that create litter in the area.”

“We are also putting together a student working group to come up with solutions to other ‘real world’ problems facing the council.

“We have also looked into helping students reuse or giveaway furniture as a first option. We’ve had some interest from students wanting to set this up, perhaps as a Facebook group.”

“This service was extremely well received by students and Monash University staff. It shows how local government, state government and universities can collaborate on a program with positive environmental benefits.”

More information

Contact Anna Mezzetti, Sustainability Education Officer at Monash Council on 03 9518 3792 or anna.mezzetti@monash.vic.gov.au