Apologies for my silence on the blog, but I've been off gallivanting again with Mr A, this time living it up at The Dorchester in London.
The occasion was the CIWM Awards for Environmental Excellence, held yesterday, to recognise excellence within the resources and wastes management industry.
And look, I didn't even have to sneak in through the back door. I was there in my official capacity as a finalist in the Recycling Champion category.
And yes, I can assure you that behind the cool, calm exterior, I was very nervous as they read through each of the nominations, especially as this professional cameraman behind me was poised ready with his camera to film the winners as they walked on stage...
...not to mention the opportunity to shake hands with Dragons' Den investor Deborah Meaden.
But no sooner had the nerves started to kick in, listening to Deborah Meaden read the finalists names, they were gone again, as the 2009 Recycling Champion was announced.
Well, I didn't gain the title on this occasion, but I am really pleased for the winner that did...
.... none other than the fantastic Tipton Litter Watch, a community-led environmental charity based in the West Midlands. And I must say they were extremely worthy winners indeed.
The judges had been so impressed by their "Think before you throw" educational programme, recognising not just their hard work, but also the potential for their community oriented model to be replicated around the country, that they also scooped the overall CIWM Award for Environmental Excellence.
It felt a real privilege to be a finalist in the same category, and Lindsay very graciously allowed me to momentarily share in the celebrations before she was whizzed off to be interviewed.
But don't worry this won't be the last that you've heard about Tipton Litter Watch. As a governor of a local primary school, I love the work that they've been doing with young people and how it is linked into the National Curriculum, so I am hoping to feature them in more detail on the blog quite soon.
But the celebrations didn't end there. I found myself in very good company, as fellow guests on our table scooped up awards in other categories.
Here is Neil Dugard, Development Director of The Local Epicurean Ltd, representing Thornton's Budgens who won the Sustainable Retailer of the Year award.
And it's easy to see why, for franchise owner, Andrew Thornton has been credited with implementing environmental initiatives that meet the needs of customers at his two stores, both of which are based in London - Crouch End & Belsize Park.
Not only has this included instore collection facilities for clothes, batteries, printer cartridges and small items of WEEE, but through their Pennies for Plastic scheme, they have also ditched the plastic bag in favour of donating money to local schools and charities.
So far they have raised a whopping £40,000.
That's right £40,000.
If that's not exciting enough, what also impressed the judges was that the two stores have reduced their landfill waste to just 6%, diverting the remaining 94% from landfill thanks to innovative recycling schemes, giving away whatever food they can and collecting the rest for converting to energy.
This is one shop I would absolutely love to have around the corner.
The excitement continued as another of the twelve awards was scooped up by finalists from our table, this time in the more technical category of Innovative Practice in Waste Management & Resource Recovery.
Here are Jane Hughes, the Joint Waste Manager for Cheshire West & Chester Council and Dr Chris Randall, who accepted the award for having helped lead the way with the introduction of Low Cal High Temperature flares at closed landfill sites. The technology that they have adopted will enable the continuous extraction of methane, preventing the gas from being released into the atmosphere.
This has just been a snapshop of the CIWM awards. It would have been great to have met all the winners, but there simply wasn't the time. However, the full list can be found on the CIWM awards site at www.ciwm.co.uk. My only regret of the day is that I didn't get to meet the other finalist in the Recycling Champion category, Sarah Blenkinsop, master composter and author of the Compost Bin blog.
So having had the honour of being judged a finalist at yesterday's awards event, I would like to publicly thank Suffolk County Council for having nominated me, particularly Anna Kowalczyk who has been very encouraging in her support.
It was a tremendous privilege to have been selected and to have had the opportunity to celebrate amongst those who are leading the way in what has become an exciting and innovative sector.
Of course, I wouldn't have been there if it hadn't been for St Edmundsbury inspiring me with their Zero Waste project nor the fabulous community of readers who have engaged with the blog as well as those who follow my Twitter ramblings. Despite not winning, I would like to thank you once again for joining in with my rubbish antics and supporting me with your ideas.
I would also like to thank James, Sally and Sharon of BBC Radio Suffolk's James Hazell show for their constant support, enabling me to share recycling tips with listeners across the county and reaching an audience that goes well beyond the scope of this blog. It's been great having them rooting for me from the very first day I sat in the studio like a rabbit caught in the headlights. And ever since, it's been fun and frolics all the way. We even managed a quick update on this morning's programme with, would you believe, a live recycling test to boot! You can catch it on Listen Again (Just fast forward to 3 hours 11 minutes into the show).
So, I have now returned to Suffolk even more enthused than ever and my passion for promoting the waste reduction message is even stronger than it was before I arrived at The Dorchester yesterday.
In her closing speech, Deborah Meaden's message to the waste industry was that it needs to shout louder about its achievements, innovation and the opportunities that lie ahead.
I wholeheartedly agree. And as consumers, we need to do that too, continuing to use word-of-mouth to promote the ideas, businesses and services that help us manage our waste for the better.
So on that particular note I will leave you with a final image, which I snapped just around the corner from The Dorchester.
Seeing on-street recycling bins always makes me cheery, but this one in particular brought on a really big smile. I feel it needs a caption, don't you!
The CIWM Awards for Environmental Excellence are now in their third year and are hosted and organised by The Chartered Institution of Wastes Management.