As we accumulate more and more refuse to be collected and disposed of every week our household waste is becoming an ever increasing problem. Environmentalists say it is essential we sort our rubbish carefully and recycle everything we can to help preserve the natural world.
Women got together during the last war to organise the collection of anything that might be reused or recycled. Besides papers, cardboard and clothing etc. there were things like laddered silk stockings which were welcomed by our Sailors in the North Sea and Arctic Ocean. They wore them under their woollen Seaboot stockings to keep their feet and legs warm.
At the same time, all iron railings and gates were taken then melted down and used for the war effort. This included those surrounding Cathedrals, Churches, Estates and private homes. No one was excused.
Recycling after the war was mostly confined to paper products. They had a problem with newspapers and printed matter because the ink mixed in the pulp discoloured it and it could only be used where paper quality was not so important. Lots of households disposed of their old newspapers at the local fish and chip shop who were always pleased to have them.
All householders had to supply their own metal dustbins which were placed fairly close to their back door and usually galvanized to prevent them rusting. These bins were necessary for the disposal of the dust and sometimes hot ashes cleared from a fireplace whenever the fire was relit.
It was a regular routine for the Dustcart to call once a week and empty them. For protection the Dustmen had a thick leather pad on one shoulder and somehow managed to lift and carry them balanced on it out to the cart.
Garden rubbish which could not be dug in as fertilizer was disposed of on a bonfire. This was not only a good opportunity but the accepted way of getting rid of any unwanted or worn out articles from the house.
Other than dog biscuits, there was very little food available in the shops for pets. Usually they had to survive on what was left by the family. Any kitchen waste remaining after they had been fed was added to peelings, cabbage leaves etc. and boiled up for their own or neighbours chickens.
Alternatively there was always someone living nearby who kept rabbits or a couple of pigs they were fattening for market. Almost anything, except onions, was mixed in the pigs swill and they were always keen to come round and collect it.
People had little else to throw away. Many drinks and liquids were sold in returnable bottles like those the milk was delivered in. The price of drink bought over the counter often included a deposit on the bottle which would be refunded if it was returned. Astute children always had their eyes open for any that had been dumped in waste-paper baskets or left laying around.
Some wrapping paper and bags as well as newspapers did get thrown into the dustbins and were sometimes scorched by hot ashes. It didn’t really matter, when they reached the Town dump they would be burnt with all the other rubbish anyway.
Food and goods purchased in any shop would be wrapped or put into bags. Some stores had a large roll of brown paper attached to the end of the counter and goods too large or heavy for a bag were parcelled and tied with string.
Back home, as soon as the goods had been put away, any clean bags were flattened out and stored away safely. They were kept for packing sandwiches for a picnic, taking a few eggs or garden produce to a friend or any one of a hundred other uses.
Big sheets of brown paper were highly valued and preserved carefully until needed to wrap presents on Birthdays or at Christmas. There were also many other things it was used for including lining the bottom of drawers and cupboards or cutting patterns for dressmaking.
Excessive and sophisticated packaging might create a problem with rubbish but it does enable us to have the choice of all kinds of produce, even when it is out of season, preserved and presented clean and ready to eat or cook with most of the preparation already done.
It also makes available many other commodities from all over the world at competitive prices.
Suppliers are being urged to do away with much of this packaging and receive fresh foods unwrapped. These would have to be weighed and put into a bag for each customer. If all of the Stores accepted this, it would certainly reduce the amount of rubbish for collection and recycling and might even lower the price of a few products.
In many cases the elaborate plastic and paper wrapping probably costs more than the goods it contains. However, if a serious reduction is made there are lots of implications to consider. No longer would there be such a wide choice of goods and little or no produce available out of season.
People would probably have to shop more often for the fresh food supplied from a more local source. While the Stores loss of ‘Buying Power’ would be likely to result in price rises. An increase in the number of staff and assistants trained to accommodate new methods of serving individual customers would also put up costs.
If this did happen, one of the most important changes would be in the number of people employed in the many industries at present dependant on the production of this excessive packaging. Those who supply the raw materials for the plastic, board, paper etc., the designers, printers, manufacturers, packers and many more, would all have large numbers of their staff put out of work.
Reducing packaging to cut down on the amount of household rubbish and help the environment sounds like a good idea but it is one that would require a lot of thought and very careful planning to offset the consequences.
valley lad – [TWELVE]