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Students donate to support local communities

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Student residents leaving their homes across Leeds this summer donated over 16 tonnes of their unwanted belongings to support local charities and communities across the city in the end of term Big Clear Out.

The Big Clear Out was set up this summer by the Sustainability Service at the University of Leeds in collaboration with Leeds Beckett University, Ward Councillors, and local community organisations. The aim was to help students from across communities in Leeds to donate their unwanted items for the benefit of local people, rather than throwing them away. In response to Covid-19 restrictions a new approach was adopted and donations were collected direct from students’ homes. The project was an incredible success - approximately 16 tonnes of unwanted items were collected, worth an equivalent of £83, 626, to support local people and charities most in need.

Left bank leeds big hall space with piles of items to be sorted

Students donated everything from books to TV’s, clothes to crockery, plus plenty of non-perishable food items. Items were collected with the help of over 200 volunteers, and assisted by staff and vehicles provided by the Universities and Leeds Rhinos Foundation. Additional collections and drop off points were also provided by local organisations including the Cardigan Centre, Hyde Park Picture House and the Gateway Church.

Left Bank Leeds provided the use of their building, to store, sort and prepare all 16 tons of donations ready for distribution to local people and organisations. The volunteers (many of which were students), helped collect, sort and distribute these donations across the local community.

Two people taking a socially distanced selfie in the street as they collect bags of unwanted items

The items collected supported a huge number of charities and people from across Leeds communities. Freeshops were held in Woodhouse, Little London, Hunslet, Beeston and Hyde Park; providing support to over 750 local people, who were able to take away as many items as they needed, free of charge. Local organisations and charities supporting young care leavers, older people, refugees and asylum seekers took items that benefited over 150 people. Twelve car loads of food were donated to Rainbow Junktion to restock their food bank, which has provided a lifeline to local people in financial difficulties as a result of the pandemic. All donations were put to good use - duvets and blankets were given to the Dogs Trust, and bras were sent to Smalls for All; a charity which collects and distributes underwear to help adults and children in Africa and the UK.

In addition, the student society, Community Action on Waste, took away household items and redistributed these to students at the start of term, through a series of freeshops. This shows the potential of the project to support students in hardship and further prevent waste by discouraging students from buying new.

The number of donations made this year was incredible - supporting over 1500 people. However, there is still opportunity for improvement, and we are keen to work with our local partners to make next year’s project even more successful. Leeds-based charities interested in receiving donations of duvets, pillows, kitchen crockery, food, small furniture items, toys, and toiletries can contact us via email at


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United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

We use the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a framework to guide our activity. Our work in the community and reducing waste is linked to the following SDGs:

      • Goal 10: Reduced inequalities
      • Goal 11: Sustainable cities and communities
      • Goal 12: Responsible consumption and production
      • Goal 17: Partnerships for the goals

Find out more about our impact on the SDGs.