Recycle Week | it’s time to thank consumers and give the next generation a helping hand!

21st September 2020 Posted by

What’s on this week?

Here we are heading towards the end of September, and where are we on the big news issues? BREXIT continues, the schools are back, and many industries are re-opening. However, the inevitable increase in COVID-19 cases has been realised and more local lockdowns are being announced on an almost daily basis.

March seems such a long time ago, when the UK waste and resources sector stepped up to the job of adapting to lockdown conditions, providing unrivalled front line service provision and protecting both human health and the environment. So it is great that as we enter Recycle Week 2020 (the 17th annual recycle week), we can send a huge positive message to each and every one of the public who did their part during lockdown, pushing recycling performance to record levels and limiting litter, fly-tipping and tension at the HWRCs when closed and as they re-opened to their new norm.

Recycling remains at the heart of the agenda

During lockdown the UK became even more environmentally aware, rekindling their love of nature and re-engaging with their local community, with nearly 90% of households claiming they ‘regularly recycle’ during lockdown.  As we come out of lockdown, even if we begin to see pockets of more litter on our streets and in our parks, more people than ever before are prepared to change their lifestyles to help the environment (now 73% compared to 68% in 2019), whilst 93% of UK households say they believe that ‘everyone has a responsibility to help towards cleaning up the environment’.

This is a fantastic starting block as we look to build back greener and should offer DEFRA hope that the Environment Bill and their green recovery plans will be not only be welcomed but championed by the general public in all parts of country.

And this is why I am so supportive of this year’s Recycle Week, with its theme of ‘Together we Recycle’ and why SUEZ recycling and recovery UK have agreed to actively support the campaign, which reflects our own efforts back in April and May when we were thanking both the public and our crews for doing such a great job during those difficult times.

Given the financial difficulty facing the UK, the funding for Recycle Now this year has been limited, so this time round sets a new benchmark in terms of commercial support and donorship. Well done to all those companies that have come forward to ensure this years campaign is as visible and effective as any that have come before. A big shout out to the mainstream donors who include leading brands from across the materials supply chain including Asda, Sainsbury’s, Ocado, Co-op, Britvic, Highland Spring, Unilever, Lucozade Ribena Suntory, Danone, PepsiCo, Reckitt Benckiser, Eco Surety, Waitrose and of course SUEZ, who are the only waste and resource company contributing both financially and in kind, more on that later.

This year’s theme of ‘all together’, shows solidarity for the great work of the public and the waste sector front line teams (such as collectors, HWRC staff, and MRF sorters) during lockdown, whilst offering a throwback to bygone days of ‘every little helps’ encouraging everyone to stand together to do more recycling, and importantly to do better recycling. For instance a recent survey found that 82% of people put one or more items in their recycling that cannot be recycled. With a little bit more clarity in the messaging and a little bit more thought by us all in our kitchens, we can really make a difference to the recycling levels and quality we produce, and that is at the heart of our green recovery, our push towards a circular economy, and of course reflects the primary theme of DEFRA’s 2018 Resources & Waste Strategy. So come on, let’s get it right, and let’s embrace all those who are making an effort to do so!

Building momentum with the next generation

But it isn’t often that I get to combine two or more of my passions into one blog, or in this case my day job and my volunteer work into a common narrative. All week, SUEZ and I will be sharing positive messages and tagging them with #RecycleWeek, promoting all the good work that continues to happen in homes across the country each and every day. Our crews will continue to work with residents to help ensure not only quantities of recycling increase, but that quality improves too, and I hope each and every one of you reading this blog will get involved and send a positive message out to your local crews,  your colleagues, or your residents.

Last week I attended my first governor’s meeting of this new academic year for the village primary school where my son returned in Year 4.

As you would expect, we were focused on return to school issues, from hygiene and safety, to class sizes and getting the children back on track with their curriculum after six months of schooling from home, something we all tried hard with, but found equally challenging and frustrating at times!

With my school governor (and father) hat on, I am just as pleased to see that a programme I have been supporting for some time, through my day job, is now being launched to coincide with Recycle Week. Today, SUEZ launched its new suite of education resources for primary and secondary school students designed to support STEM (science, engineering, technology and maths) learning opportunities and enhance career aspirations in our next generation. These inspiring lesson plans and slide decks should help inspire the next wave of entrepreneurs, campaigners, resource managers and policy makers, and perhaps one of my son’s class mates might go on to be the next Michael Gove, Greta Thunberg, Tom Heap or  Michael Palin – we will have to wait and see.  Perhaps there is an up and coming John Scanlon out there, after all our new CEO has been central to getting these materials off the drawing board and into classrooms for testing and approval. He’s not only supporting Recycle Week with funding, but he is supporting it with our staff time and skills, so well done John and the team.

I can still remember my teachers from primary school, those with a passion for what they did, and it was no surprise I ended up in resource management after a series of inspiring geography teachers, environmental scientists and of course my old man helping influence my thinking about waste and resources from an early age. So let’s hope our new materials can help inspire and instil the values of reducing, reusing and recycling resources in today’s children, who will of course be tomorrow’s consumers.

The resources are targeted at primary school children covering both key stage 1 and 2 with detailed lesson plans for teachers plus a range of supporting resources, including online videos to help bring the issues to life. Having seen the materials being developed by our team of specialists, including a former teacher and STEM ambassadors, I expect them to be a hit with primary schools up and down the country. There is also no better time to make these materials available free to schools than during the one week of the year when everyone is talking about recycling. So keep an eye on social media to hear more about the materials and their uptake as we continue to promote them and our support for Recycle Week.

With teachers having less time to plan lessons this academic year than before it seemed to be the right thing to do for us to help develop some ready to go lesson materials that could be used across a number of disciplines/topics, as and when the staff need some fresh material. I have already approached my village school about using the materials either in class, or with the children-led environment club that was set up last year to tackle issues like village litter and wild planting.

According to Liz Sampson, a Key Stage 1 Teacher at Gorran School in Cornwall, ‘these resources have been meticulously planned to meet the curriculum for primary schools and to address the wider focus on the environment, addressing reduce, reuse and recycle through a series of well planned, engaging and investigative lessons.’


This week is a busy one, and rightly so. Let’s hope that the momentum being built around recycling will capture the attention of our younger generations, and that our new materials can go some way to inspiring them to get involved, to get their parents involved, and to drive recycling, reuse and reduction initiatives forward for many years to come.

I know I am expecting a busy time in the coming months with my local school, and that can only be good for the children, the school, me, and the environment. So, get on board and let’s all do our bit, perhaps by supporting a school near you?

Remember, Together We Recycle!

All of the resources are available to free to download here.



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