“Good Manners are for everyone. It’s a democratic thing.” says Liz Wyse.

Liz Wyse

I am talking to Liz Wyse, the leading British authority on good manners and etiquette. She is the Head of Publishing at Debrett’s. She is an editor and writer who has authored and created numerous books for Debrett’s, including A-Z of Modern Manners and The Queen: The Diamond Jubilee.

She also worked on numerous non-fiction illustrated books on many occasions, such as the Guinness Book of Records and The Times Atlas of World History. One of her latest creations is Debrett’s first Etiquette Guide for Hybrid Work. The Guide is concerned with a novel topic that came to life in our times, and it makes history for Debrett’s.

             The Etiquette Guide for Hybrid Work

Debrett’s, whose offices are based in Weybridge, is an establishment dating back to 1769 and is named after its founder John Debrett. It is a chronicle and record-keeper of Britain’s titled aristocracy, and was also an adjudicator of People of Today, singling out and crediting outstanding professional achievements and success in all walks of British society. It is also an authority widely recognized on British manners and etiquette. Debrett advises on all matters relating to protocol, precedence, etiquette, and behaviour. It assists in building skills and social confidence both in person and via online coaching and through books on good manners and etiquette. Additionally, it makes an online subscription service available to the general public and offers access to the most treasured British chronicles


Having the opportunity, I asked Liz Wyse general questions about good manners.

What are good manners?

Good manners are nothing more than having a general awareness of other people, being observant, being empathetic, looking around you, and always being conscious of the impact that you have on the world around you and on the people, you’re interacting with. The good manners part of that is ensuring that the impact is always as pleasant and positive as possible. I think people get very knotted up with the idea of etiquette and manners, such as which fork to use and where to put my napkin. What do I do if I meet the Duchess and all this type of thing. All of these things are codified and are traditional knowledge which Debrett’s does deal with, but the emphasis these days is more on looking at modern life and all the dilemmas of modern life and the situations that we find ourselves in, like with mobile phones for example, and trying to come up with sensible advice for the best way of handling new challenges.

Are good manners and etiquette the same thing?

Well, I think they are not entirely. I think people do tend to use it interchangeably, but I would argue that etiquette is more of an old-fashioned term for more traditional notions of what is proper behaviour, whereas good manners are a much more universal term that encompasses just generally interacting in a civilized and positive way with other people.

Why do you think we have the rules of good manners?

Good manners are very important when it comes to oiling the wheels of society. So, I think if you’ve got good manners, it means that you could put people at ease, that you’re indispensable in social situations, you know how to make small talk, and you know how to introduce people to each other. If you’ve got good manners, you’re generally likely to be a very good host or hostess. You’re going to be a person who’s popular socially. You’re going to succeed in life. Good manners are also important in the professional world as well. So, I think they’re universally important and it’s a win-win situation. If you have good manners, people will respect you and like you more.

Where do good manners originate?

I suppose they have evolved. In some ways, this has been the history of Debrett’s too. They have a role from an era when society was more stratified, and the royal family, the nobility, and the ecclesiastical people were at the top. People who had high status in society differentiated themselves from everyone else by refining their behaviour to be more elegant and rarefied. This was a way of asserting social difference and saying, “I’m a member of the aristocracy, and my manners proclaim my pedigree.” I think that’s probably how they originated. But of course, society has evolved. That’s not really how they are now perceived. Good manners aren’t seen purely as assets of people who are the leaders of society.

So, I think everything has changed over the last few centuries. But I expect that if you were talking about the origin of good manners, you would probably go back to the Middle Ages and chivalry in medieval times.

Only recently I found out about a philosopher in ancient Egypt named Ptahhotep who in the late 25th century BC and early 24th century BC presented, the ‘First Code of Conduct’ in his book ‘The Maxims of Ptahhotep’ and explained the reasons why people should follow manners. One of his very famous quotes was that “the stability of civilization and domestic home life depends upon justice”.*1 So, already then, the motives for good manners were very deeply rooted.

and I’m sure manners were important in ancient Greece and ancient Rome too.

It’s quite amazing to imagine and find out that all those years ago people were so conscious of those issues as well.                                                                                                                                                                         

It’s certainly true that for a long period, they were a way of defining people’s status. Their manners were an indicator of social status.

Would you agree that many of these rules naturally exist in life? They are rooted and derived from the natural world of beauty, kindness, grace, ethics, and aesthetics. We only discover them and then choose the best way we like how people act and behave. I’m just trying to establish that good manners exist in life anyway and that we’ve got all this within us, and we make the best choices and then follow them for generations to come. I imagine that at some stage somebody did something very gracefully and it was an example to other people, and then someone decided this is a good way of doing it and proposed let’s follow it.

I’m sure that’s right. I’m sure several centuries ago, people were all sitting around the table eating with their hands and chewing with their mouths open, and somebody else ate very delicately and looked very elegantly. And they thought that’s the way to do it. And that’s how everything begins to evolve.

Do you think the origins were rooted in the real world?

What then happens is that, at certain points in history, like in the Court of Louis the 14th, the etiquette and the protocol and the ways in which people were segregated were based on their behaviour. Their mode of address, the depth of that curtsy, the depth of that bow, all of these things became more and more complex to the point where the court was almost paralyzed by its own sense of etiquette and good behaviour. So, I think that you’re right. They do originate in probably perfectly common sense and natural human behaviour. But then at various points, they were refined to a point where they’re artificial and they created artificial distinctions, and they created behaviour which was quite peculiar at times historically.

Good manners are for example, to be kind to others, but do they help us to assert ourselves?

I think they do. They help us to assert ourselves in a very effective way. These days a lot of people think that assertiveness is about being bold, confident, and assertive, but I think people who have good manners are often much more effective at getting their point of view across because they listen. Let’s say that somebody with good manners is having an argument or a disagreement with somebody, then part of the way in which they interact is to listen to the person they’re arguing with. They pay attention to them. They address the points they’re making and then politely put their point of view across. And that, is a much more effective way of asserting yourself and making your views felt, than just simply weighing in there and letting rip and shouting. So yes, I do think good manners are effective in all sorts of contexts.

Would you say that good manners represent a standard of life? By breaking their rules, we lower our standards.

Do you think there are situations in which we have to skip good manners and do so in a way that avoids dropping our standards? Would you say that once someone is good-mannered, they are always good-mannered?

Yes, I would. These days good manners are not the sort of complicated codes of behaviour that we suffered from a century ago. They are just a way of interacting with people which, is kind, attentive, and involves being aware of people and all the rest of it. And that’s a universal that permeates all aspects of your life. Once you start acting like that, it’s going to cut across all your fields of interaction.

Do you think they should be included in the Curriculum for children and teenagers?

Yes, I do, and I know that it is happening. It’s not a part of the national curriculum at the moment, but I think some private schools are certainly addressing this issue by including classes on manners. Debrett’s, in response, started coaching small children. I think if you’re in a situation where you feel that good manners are not inevitably being handed down by parents, then yes, it’s a good idea to redress that by including it on some level in the school curriculum because I think good manners are only beneficial. And if a child has got them, it’s definitely going to help in terms of their career and their advancement in grown-up life.

Are we more vulnerable by entering the world of good manners as some people might deliberately break them, and we could feel hurt or agitated by that?

If you hold yourself and other people to a certain standard of behaviour, then you find that people break that and offend you.

Does observing good manners make us stronger or are we more vulnerable by being polite?

That’s a tricky question, I think, because it’s to some extent down to the individual. I think some people find good manners to be a very useful shield that they just retreat behind. They’re relentlessly polite no matter what life throws at them, and they find that a very useful and effective defence. And I think that if people can do it, it’s a very good way of dealing with all the things other people throw at you. Obviously, there are some people who can’t do that. I think it’s difficult to make a generalization about that.

Do they help us to argue less with other people?

I think manners smooths everything and it’s likely to make interactions more harmonious. I won’t say you won’t argue, but you will argue less.

Do you think observing good manners by politicians, diplomats and people of that rank can help to elevate their negotiating skills and, therefore play an important part in avoiding international conflicts and maybe wars and destruction?

Yes, if only. But I do think that the most effective politicians are the ones who have good manners and who are able to control their anger or irritation, who are able to interact with other people in a positive, constructive way. I think it’s a very important skill. And of course, unfortunately in our system in the House of Commons, for example, it’s a very adversarial means of interacting. And sometimes manners do fly out of the window, but I think that the most effective cases the politicians make are often the ones that they make with calmness and politeness.

Would you say that if everyone around the world tried to observe good manners, it could help to fight climate change?

It’s a little bit of a stretch. In some respects, good manners are about consideration, about being considerate of other people. So, you could say it’s about being considerate of the planet too. Your own habits, whether that’s to do with driving when you should be walking, or not recycling when you should be. In some ways, these are standards of behaviour, whether they’re manners, I’m not sure. So yes, I think that’s a tricky one.

But on some occasions, it could be linked to manners. Like, for instance, people dropping litter.

That’s clearly very bad manners, and it’s inconsiderate if you don’t put your recycling in the right bin. There are eco manners nowadays, which is kind of a norm that we are all meant to comply with. You can be eco-shamed, I suppose, if you are a horrible litter lout or you don’t put your recycling out.

Finally, I’d like to ask this question. After many years of living in England, I want to find out whether it is an English manner to lick your fingers after dinner, even if it is only done when dining at home and even when it is done very gracefully?                                                                                                                                                                                        

No, I don’t think that is an English manner. I think table manners are changing a lot and becoming much looser. But conventionally, that wasn’t considered to be good manners though. The convention was always there; the only thing that should go in your mouth was your cutlery, not your fingers. A fork or a spoon, not your fingers.

Photo Valery Sidelynkov

In Poland, where I grew up, it’s definitely a no-no. That’s why I could never understand why people are doing it here.

It is a no-no here. Table manners are getting more slapdash these days, so you might be seeing people doing this. Table manners are for a good reason. I mean, hygiene, yes, but also the whole notion of English table manners is that we should not appear to be greedy and should never be greedy. Not to be kind of relishing, you’re meant to be a little bit more restrained. I’m sorry you are seeing English people doing that. That’s not right.

On behalf of the readers, viewers and myself, I would like to thank you for being an exceptional and recognised expert in the field of good manners and etiquette. I would like to thank you for helping, guiding, and reminding us about keeping our standards in this fast-paced world. Liz, thank you for taking the time to talk to us.

I enjoyed that very much.

  1. An Ancient African Wisdom Book: Commentary on the Instruction of Ptahhotep” by Angela Chamblee ↩︎
Reading time: 14 min

‘You are Noah!’ says The Noah’s Ark Foundation to all of us, ‘be one of many who will stop the extinction of wildlife, everywhere’. ‘It Takes the World to Make a Miracle’ is one of their songs. And ‘I am Noah’ will be the chorus at benefit concerts. Everyone can join in, everyone already involved in saving endangered species can join in, anyone passionate about nature’s beauty or who is touched by its healing powers can join in, whoever listens to cleaning the air we breathe or stopping climate change can join in. Absolutely everyone everywhere should join in. We should all be Noah.

Being Noah means supporting space for wildlife, space that is safe from urban and agricultural sprawl, space that is free of poachers and deforestation, space as a sanctuary while the world’s natural habitats are threatened. That space can be rewilded farmland, woodlands or even nonarable land, whether at home or abroad, and much is being done in that cause.

Except, the rate of extinction is already so vast across the planet that it cannot possibly be checked alone by pockets of change here and there, not in time to make a real difference. Action is needed collectively, on a grander international level. Until then, until that happens, we need to make a start with endangered species, wherever they are, pan-globally, and keep them safe from extinction, right NOW.

The Noah’s Ark Foundation has that vision, to build a high security park (like Jurassic Park) with open spaces and domes (like the Eden Project in Cornwall, UK) for replicating major foreign climates.

The intent is to create spaces for species from across the world and keep them safe until, sometime in the future, they can be reintroduced to their own homelands. That vision is the Noah’s Ark conservation park, the brainchild of founders Richard and Hein Prinsloo-Curson.

More than a park, with wild animals and plants from across the world to see, there will also be research laboratories, the world’s first eDNA bank for endangered animals, museum displays, an international convention centre, entertainment areas and an entire hospitality area including hotels, restaurants, food courts and cafeterias as well as training, health and emergency facilities. The aim is to build an icon, one that can be admired by all conservationists and especially by wildlife enthusiasts. A thing of beauty and of true meaning for generations to come.

Even before construction starts, the park will be visible to millions of viewers – with a 27-episode TV series following the life drama of bringing it all about. The series will first be aired coast-to-coast in the USA and subsequently on channels in the UK, Europe and the rest of the world. The series will reach a weekly audience of over 1 million in the USA and 1 million in the UK and internationally, with views of the ideal family holiday destination.

Noah’s Ark TV Series 1, aired on Sky TV in 2021, was the pilot for the full series. Books will also follow the park coming into being, commenced by You are Noah! Introduction already published. TV and radio interviews are also planned, as was the case on Kay Burley and Good Morning Britain with Series 1.

Music singles have also been released. More will follow, by popular stars – it’s yet to be announced who those will be. All of the songs will be on saving wildlife from extinction and on Noah’s Ark’s part in all of that. Celebrities will take part, as will well known conservationists, some of them having a book published on their role in this fascinating story.

This will be a lead up to a series of all-star benefit concerts, beginning possibly with the Wembley Stadium, London, UK, again featuring Noah’s Ark’s leading role in wildlife conservation. The aim is to beat the best of the best in benefit concerts, which – would you agree? – was Live Aid in 1985.

And, finally, as you are sure to be asking, where is the Noah’s Ark conservation park to be built, and when? Well, that is a burning question, soon to be answered. The guys at The Noah’s Ark Foundation are busy on that, with governments, funders, designers and management companies. For now, what we can say, is that it will be in Africa.

Meanwhile, when will music labels and books come out? Well, the guys are really busy there, with TV producers, record companies, distributors. The first book You are Noah! Introduction, which introduces the whole programme far better, is available now along with Noah’s Ark TV Series 1 free to watch. More music singles, TV episodes and books will come out through 2024

GB Publishing link:https://www.gbpublishing.co.uk/product-page/you-are-noah

GB Publishing Org https://www.gbpublishing.co.uk/charities

Noah’s Ark Foundation link https://noahsark.life/invest-in-noahs-ark-foundation/

Reading time: 4 min

 SIMVIC is a company that buys and processes scrap metal. It is located at Unit 4, Fordwater Trading Estate, Ford Road, Chertsey, KT16 8HG. The founders of the company are Radek Arasniewicz and his brother-in-law Darek Arasniewicz. They both come from Poland originally. 

The beginnings of the company are humble. It started in 2008 when they came to England. In the beginning, both were driving the only van they had to collect scrap metal. Their experience with scrap metal comes from Poland, where they had already established a similar business. At first, they drove around London to collect scrap and took it from there to Peterborough and then back to London again. The business grew slowly, soon they bought more vans and rented their own site in West Drayton. Here they stored the scrap metal and used the space to treat it. In those days, the price of scrap metal was better than it is today. An accountant helped them in administrative matters. After some time, they had to leave the West Drayton location and find a new home for their business. In 2011 they found land here in Chertsey, which they rented until 2022, and then they bought it. The company employs about twenty permanent employees and a few office workers. The company’s offices are very well organized and use the latest technology.                                                                              

I am talking to Radek Arasniewicz, one of the owners and a director of the company. His wife and daughter live in Poland, and he swaps places on a monthly basis with Darek, his brother-in-law and business partner. So, he spends one month at the company in Chertsey, and then travels to stay with his family in Poland and also takes care of the company in Poland for a month.  At that time Darek comes to England and runs the company here. This exchange takes place every month.  

How big is the area of your company? 

To put it literally, I would say, the area is about the same size as a football field.

How did you get involved in the scrap metal business? 

It just happened. I suppose that one of the reasons was, that we had already established the same business in Poland. In Poland, it is more focused on the purchase of steel, so the process of the business is different.

What kind of scrap do you collect?

Here in England, we collect and buy copper, aluminium, bronze, cars for scrap, cables, steel, brass, lead. In fact, we buy all ferrous and non-ferrous metals.                                                                     

Who is your main supplier of industrial scrap?

Our regular suppliers of scrap are demolition companies as well as garbage collection companies, like B&K or PM Skips, which operate locally. Nevertheless, finding new suppliers is a constant endeavour. We advertise a lot on the Internet for this.

What is the procedure for collecting scrap metal in your company?

We currently have three trucks and ten vans. We drive them to our suppliers, where the goods are loaded. This is often done with the help of special cranes or forklifts. Depending on the circumstances, we work together with suppliers when loading trucks. We all try to make it as smooth a process as possible.

Do you have private scrap suppliers?

We have a lot of private professional suppliers like plumbers or electricians, and we strongly encourage the local community to come and sell us their accumulated scrap metal too.

Can people like me, private individuals, come to you and deliver their scrap metal? For example, an old washing machine or an old car?

Of course! however, we buy everything as scrap. Therefore, the prices are the same as that for scrap metal.

 How much can one get for an old washing machine or an old car?

Probably around £5 for an old washing machine, and around £150 for a small old car

Is finding new scrap metal suppliers and buyers easy?

It is not easy, there are many companies in this sphere. It all depends on the right price. You have to be very sensitive to the market and be able to set the best prices for the materials you buy or sell. I do all the pricing. Our prices are always listed on our website. In fact, the success of this business lies in the ability to give and get the right price. This is a very fluid business and both the prices and the demand for different types of material are constantly changing. For example, China needs copper, but in the summer season due to floods out there, China stops its operations and does not need as much copper. This, in turn, affects the price of copper and the price decreases due to the lack of demand for it. 

Please describe the metal recycling process in your company.

80% of the material delivered to us is physically examined. The materials need to be properly prepared, sorted and cleaned. We have many machines for this purpose. Some machines separate metal from plastic, and then the plastic is turned into granules that can be also, like metal, reused again. Other machines cut the metal into smaller pieces.                                                                                        

We also sell used parts from BMW and Mercedes. This aspect plays a significant role in our business operations. The parts can be bought directly from us, or we sell them on eBay. 

Do you trade internationally?

Yes, we do, nevertheless, most of our trade takes place in England, some 80% you could say. The

English companies we trade with are such as Tandom, SIMS Metal, EMR, Crow Metal, ROBA Scrap Metal, City Metal and many others. The remaining 20% we mainly operate in Poland. For example, we supply recycled derived copper to the world-renowned company KGHM, known as a major international producer of copper and silver. The head office of KGHM is in Lublin.

Which metal is in greatest demand?  

It depends on the season and prices, and it often changes.

Which metal is the most expensive? 

Copper is the most expensive.

Would you agree with my statement that scrap metal is no longer just scrap as most of this scrap material can be recycled, the people who sell scrap metal earn money for it and the scrap metal gets a second life?

That is right. Scrap can be recycled, and you can earn money from its sale.

How does metal recycling protect the environment?

Collecting and recycling scrap protects the environment from pollution, as it is not sent to landfills. We also save the Earth’s natural resources.

What do you like to do when you’re not working? I understand you work very hard.

I like cycling, swimming and boxing.

Where is your favourite place to go on holiday?

I really like going to Norway. It’s quiet, peaceful and very beautiful there. 

Radek, I really appreciate and thank you for your initiative to create a company that is needed so much nowadays, as well as for your hard work and dedication to this work. I would also like to thank your whole team for their hard work and enthusiasm.   

                                                                                                                                               Thank you for taking the time to talk to us.  


Reading time: 8 min
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Reading time: 1 min

The Eco Park on Charlton Lane Shepperton is providing the next generation of household and business waste treatment facilities for the county of Surrey. The innovative facilities produce electricity for the national grid and fertiliser for use in farming. It is run by the waste management company SUEZ (formerly known as SITA), on behalf of Surrey County Council, and is now fully operational, offering both anaerobic digestion (AD) and gasification as well as a Community Recycling Centre.

I am talking to Kacie Thompson, a communications manager who joined SUEZ in 2017. Kacie is from the United States but moved to Surrey in 2016 and is now happily settled in South London. She has an MSc in Corporate Environmental Management from the University of Surrey.

The Eco Park, Charlton Lane, Shepperton
Model of the whole site of the Eco Park

Could you please explain the terms gasification and anaerobic digestion?

Gasification is used to process non-recyclable ‘black bag’ waste and turn it into energy. The gasification facility at the Eco Park is designed to treat up to 55,000 tonnes of black bag waste each year, mostly from homes in Spelthorne, Runnymede and Elmbridge. The waste first goes through a screening process to pull out metals for recycling and remove any oversized waste and inert materials like brick or concrete. The remaining waste is shredded to create Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) which is then fed into the gasification chamber. At the bottom of the chamber is a fluidised bed of sand which is heated over 700 degrees Celsius with reduced oxygen levels. The waste is broken down in the fluidised sand bed, creating a synthetic gas which rises to the top of the chamber. At the top of the chamber, the air is added to the gas and then ignited. The heat from igniting the gas is used to produce steam that then drives a turbine to generate electricity.

At the end of the process, the gases are cleaned and filtered before being released through the chimney on site. We continually monitor emissions to make sure they are kept within strict permitted levels. The ash produced from the process is currently sent to a landfill, but we hope that in future it may be able to be used as an aggregate in construction.

On the other hand, anaerobic digestion is a process that uses microorganisms to break down biodegradable material, in this case, food waste, in the absence of oxygen. At the Eco Park, food waste goes through a pre-treatment process to remove any unsuitable items (like plastic bags) and shred the waste into small pieces. Water is then added to the food waste and the mixture is fed into a series of tanks containing microorganisms that break it down in the absence of oxygen, producing biogas that is used to generate electricity. After the biogas is removed, excess water is removed to create a compost-like material called digestate that can be used on farmland to improve soil nutrition.

Would you say that the Eco Park is a power station?

That is how we like to think about it. It is a power station producing electricity, but the fuel used comprises non-recyclable materials and food waste. We are subject to strict emissions controls and the gases produced from both processes are monitored and cleaned before they are released via the chimney.

The benefit of having the plant here is that local residential waste can be used to generate enough electricity to power over 4,000 homes, which is an area approximately equal to the size of Shepperton. Also, refuse trucks from Elmbridge, Runnymede and Spelthorne do not need to travel far, which cuts down on emissions. 

We could say that the treatment of local household waste at the Eco Park is helping to make the community more self-sufficient in terms of waste management, whilst also contributing to energy security. In 2022:

  • *The Eco Park generated a total of 25.4 GWh of electricity – 16.2 from the gasifier and 9.2 from the anaerobic digestion facility
  • Of the total electricity generated, 15.9 GWh was exported to the grid
  • The facility exported enough electricity to power 4,262 homes for the entire year, more than all the homes in Shepperton
  • 44,035 tonnes of non-recyclable black bag waste processed
  • 25,226 tonnes of food waste processed
  • 4,164 tonnes of digestate produced, sent to be used as a soil improver in agriculture

**Between 2021 and 2022, 52,561 tonnes of household waste was collected in Elmbridge (from kerbside and bring banks), out of which 26,944 tonnes were sent for recycling, reuse, or composting. This represents a recycling rate of 51.3%. There are 136,795 people living in Elmbridge (according to 20192020 statistics), and we generated 441.8kg of waste per person during the period 20202021.

What residents can bring to the recycling centre:                                                                                            


Do you think we as consumers could take more responsibility for the waste we generate?

The main thing we try to encourage people to do is to really think about how items could be reused, for instance by passing them on to someone else. We would love to see the residents reduce waste by re-using and repairing more of their items rather than disposing of them.

What about the items we put into our bins?

One of the biggest problems we currently have is that lots of people put batteries (which need to be recycled in a special way) into their household waste bins. Some still have use in them and can be a fire risk if not properly disposed of, causing a safety concern for staff and visitors on waste sites and risking damage to important infrastructure. This is a problem nation-wide, and it is something we would like Surrey residents to be more aware of. If they are throwing away something that has batteries in it, they should be removed before putting the item in the appropriate bin. Batteries can be safely and separately recycled at your local community recycling centre or in a supermarket, where there are often dedicated battery collection points.

Batteries collection point in Waitrose, Weybridge
Batteries collection point in Morrison, Weybridge

For instance, in Weybridge, Waitrose has a collection point at customer services, and there is one in Morrisons (in the downstairs hall next to the escalator). Also, printing cartridges and cooking oil can be brought to the recycling centre in Charlton Lane, Shepperton. When it comes to collecting food waste, you can line your caddy with any type of plastic bag, e.g., old shopping bag or specially purchased plastic bags on the roll. ***

Surrey Environment Partnership – Food waste recycling (surreyep.org.uk)

Another issue is the contamination of recycling bins. Some residents put food-soiled items like pizza boxes or used kitchen roll in their recycling bins, but this kind of content cannot be recycled because soiled paper and cardboard will reduce the quality of paper products created from the recycled material. Such items should therefore be considered non-recyclable. The content of the recycling bins should be kept as dry as possible and clean from food contamination.

We as consumers often feel we cannot help generating so much waste. In an ideal world, if we managed to minimise our general and food waste, replace plastic bottles with refillable glass bottles, cut down on packaging, and use only natural fabrics, would it put companies like SUEZ out of work?

Absolutely not. At SUEZ, we focus on waste prevention and elimination and moving materials up the waste hierarchy. To reduce volumes of non-recyclable waste, we will have to recycle more and more, so we will still have a role to play in processing items for recycling and making sure we make the most out of our resources. And there will always be food waste to deal with, so anaerobic digestion facilities.

Do you think there is a conflict of interest between us the consumers and the waste management companies and experts?

Our goal is always to minimise waste and move materials up the waste hierarchy, so no, I don’t think so. If we take paint waste as an example. Paint used to be something that could not be recycled, but we designed a solution that helped prevent waste, reduced disposal costs for the council and raised money for charity. We opened a reuse shop where tins containing a certain amount of paint could be put aside and resold for a suggested donation to Macmillan Cancer Support. Also, new legislation and policy reforms are being introduced that will transform the waste industry and drive recycling rates. Extended Producer Responsibility will require manufacturers to take more responsibility for their packaging waste, incentivising them to change to more environmentally friendly packaging and ensuring the price of the product reflects the environmental cost of end-of-life disposal. Alongside this, there is a new policy coming into effect that will mandate separate food waste collections from all households and businesses, making anaerobic digestion facilities like we have at the Eco Park even more important. These policy changes will be a big transition in the industry and waste and recycling experts have an important role to play in implementing these changes.

SUEZ has adopted a zero waste and circular economy strategy.

I understand that SUEZ participates in charity events. Could you tell us more about them?

At a national level, we have partnered with Macmillan Cancer Support, and we have raised over £500,000 as one of their UK corporate partners.

In Surrey, ten percent of profits from our five reuse shops (nearly £60,000 to date) is donated to various local charities each year. We have supported a huge number of local charities over the years, including the Woking & Sam Beare Hospice and the Princess Alice Hospice. We are about to launch a new community fund for Surrey charities that will use the profits that we make through the reuse shops to provide grants of up to £10,000 for bigger charitable projects that address community and environmental issues. We are very excited about this.

Many of our social value activities are connected to reuse and waste minimisation. For example, we collect a great deal of mobility equipment, like crutches and walking frames, that are restored and sent to be put back into use within the NHS. We are engaged in social initiatives in Surrey that many residents may not know about. For example, we have partnered with HMP Ford (an open prison) where we sponsor a bicycle workshop where prisoners can acquire mechanical skills. We collect bikes that are not in good working order and send them over to the prison, where they are worked on and then sent back and sold back into use, usually for around £25-£100. Additionally, through the Released on Temporary Licence scheme we give prisoners who are coming to the end of their sentence the opportunity to apply for a job with SUEZ as part of a rehabilitation through our employment programme which has been very successful. This is something we are very proud of. We are also doing a lot of work with the Ministry of Justice to help encourage other employers to set up similar programmes.

Reuse, Revive Shop at the Eco Park
Reuse, Revive Shop at the Eco Park

On a more personal note, what hobbies do you have?

Gardening really. I have a huge vegetable garden and I go to the reuse shop and get stuff for it there, so I am never short of plant pots. I also bought some clay roof tiles, which I use for kerbing in the garden. My goal is to become self-sufficient in terms of growing food, or at least as much as possible in London.

I would like to take the opportunity and thank you Kacie and the whole SUEZ team for doing such a great job of managing our waste in these magnificent facilities, and I hope that we, as consumers, will manage to discipline ourselves and take time to acquire new skills and knowledge that will help us deal with and segregate our domestic waste, for example by learning more about what we can put in our bins and what we can bring to the Charlton Lane, Shepperton recycling centre. Thank you again for taking the time to talk to us.

*Figures provided by Kacie Thompson SUEZ

**What do we do with your waste and how much do we recycle? – Surrey County Council (surreycc.gov.uk)

***Surrey Environment Partnership – Food waste recycling (Surreyep.org.UK

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