A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46



At the beginning of each interview, as an introduction, housewives were asked whether they had any suggestion to make about the collection of salvage. If they found the question too puzzling at the beginning, it was repeated later on.

Out of the 3073 interviewed, only 31% (or 958) had suggestions to make; most of these took the form of complaints. They referred to six main problems, which are presented in their numerical significance in the following table.

Table 19
Way of collection 51
Containers 32
Dumps, centres of collection 8
Voluntary collectors 8
Publicity 8
Failings of other citizens 5
Miscellaneous 10
All who had suggestions to make 958

Complaints about way of collection and containers are much the most frequent, Certain group differences exist. They are only given where statistically significant.

Table 20
Urban Rural
% %
Ways of collection 48 64
Containers 36 14
All other complaints 36 41
N.A. 2 2
All who complain 784 174

More rural housewives complain about the way of collection, but fewer about the lack of containers, than do urban housewives.


Ways of collection

In Table 18 suggestions and complaints of different types were grouped together under certain broad headings; in the following tables, each of these broad groups is analysed in greater detail and the meaning of the table illustrated by quotations.

Table 22

Complaints and suggestions about way of collection

No. %
More frequent or regular collections. 197 21
More frequent or regular collections of kitchen waste. 75 8
Salvage should be kept separate when collected. 61 6
Salvage men refusing to take salvage that is put out. 58 6
Inefficiency of salvage collectors or dustmen. 55 6
Collections should be made at a definite time. Should be advertised. Collector should knock or ring. 41 4
Return to direct collection from houses (in districts where communal bin system operates). 35 4
There should be an official collection of tins. 22 2
Miscellaneous 31 3
All who had suggestions to make 958

Some detailed comments

“Farmers are terribly shorthanded and busy. They have no time to take up salvage. Things lie until mouldy, and have to be burnt. Want of organisation and collection have made people careless.”

“Have sent girl to ask salvage man to call when going round the village. He said he was full up and would call next time, but he hasn’t done so. That was a long time ago.”

“Kitchen waste should be collected more regularly. It smells and attracts dogs and rats.”

“They put all the kitchen waste in the carts with the road refuse. They shan’t have any more while they do that. They should keep it all clean. I pity the poor pigs. It’s disgusting, it is,”

“Tell the salvage men they must take everything. They say they won’t take this or that.”

“Dustmen drop as much in the street as they put in the cart They left all my bones last week lying in the middle of the road.”

“Local authorities should tell people what time they will be collecting salvage. We don’t hear them come, and have stuff we might have given.”

“Better to have someone to call. Too busy with children to take salvage over to bins. Have a bundle of papers now waiting for collection.”

“They ought to collect tins.”

After so much criticism, the suggestion of one housewife to “Cheer up the dustmen” was refreshing. She went on to show that a cheerful dustman convinced of the value of the service he was performing was one of the finest publicity agents.

The most frequent complaints are those about irregular collection, especially in the case of kitchen waste. There are also quite a number of complaints about dustmen. Some people don’t like the 8 bin system, though there are others who feel very satisfied with it. There are still housewives who blame the dustmen for mixing up all the salvage they have so carefully sorted. In a number of such cases the dustman was quite justified, as the town had a separation plant, and his cart had no space for separated salvage.


Table 23

Suggestions and complaints about containers

No. %
Complaints of size, or number of containers. 179 19
Need for greater supply of separate containers for different types of salvage. 80 8
Wastage from public bins and sacks due to knocking over, to animals, wind, children, etc. 46 5
Preference for bins over sacks 14 1
Miscellaneous 6 1
All who had suggestions to make 958

Some detailed comments

“There are no bins round here to put things in - should be a bin in every street.”

“A box should be provided for tins, etc. separate. We have only one dustbin to put everything in, so have to make up bundles, which we haven’t much time for.”

“I don’t think open boxes in the road are hygienic. They encourage anybody to go and muck the things about.”

“Bins are better than sacks - get full of holes. Bins should be attached to trees or pylons to keep them from getting knocked over and from animals.”

“I simply refuse to take things to bins in front of other people’s houses, and won’t have those dirty people inside my gate.’ I simply won’t be bothered when I am so busy working at night as well as doing all the rest. Bins have ruined the house fronts. You may say there is a war on, so it doesn’t matter, but I say that little bit of morale you get by keeping your front nice is all- important. Also, people won’t keep lids on, and I’m not going to put them on.’”

The main demands in this group are for more containers, for larger ones, and for different containers for different salvage items.


Actual ways of salvaging

The next table shows how each salvage item is salvaged.


Ways of salvaging

Paper Kitchen Waste Metal Bones Rags Rubber
% % % % % %
Put in separate container until collected 49 14 30 - 34 29
Wrap up in a bundle and put by tin 20 - - - - -
Put all salvage in one container. 17 - 11 - - -
Outside flat door to be collected by porter - - - - - -
Keep indoors 5 - 1 - - -
Take to school, shop or depot 4 4 - 2 1 8
Collected by W.V.S., etc. 5 - - - - 6
Put in container with bones, etc. - - - - 14 -
Give or sell to rag man. - - - 4 27 -
Put in dustbin - - 24 4 1 -
Put by dustbin - - 26 17 14 28
In shed, backyard, etc. - - 2 - 1 2
Collected - - - 2 5 -
Put in pig-bin - - - 11 - -
Take to shop - toothpaste tubes, etc. - - 1 - - -
Take to the dump - - 2 - - -
Keep Separately - - - 26 - -
Keep with salvage - - - 11 - -
Put in bone tin in street - - - 17 - -
Put in bin; Give to pig owner - 51 - - - -
Give to chickens and rabbits - 32 - - - -
Miscellaneous 1 1 - 3 1 1
N.A. and D.N.A. 2 1 3 4 5 8
All who regularly or sometimes collect 2684 2567 2878 2061 2223 1226

The table is on the whole self-explanatory.

The most striking result is that only a minority have separate containers for each salvage item.

Inefficiency of the authorities


Suggestions and complaints about inefficiency of the authorities

No. %
Wastage in dumps 43 4
More receiving depots required 16 2
Clear salvage from bombed houses and sites and factories 12 1
Saw article in paper about L.C.C. wasting salvage to build up marshes 6 1
Complaint of waste of paper through Government forms 6 1
Miscellaneous 43 4
All who had suggestions to make 958

Some detailed comments

“Children should be asked to help in salvage drives and given a badge as a stimulus to collect more.”

“Schools should organise the collection of salvage.”

“Should have a pig bin - and a salvage steward in this street.”

“System is needed. Children should not be allowed to bother people 2-3 times a day. Cannot put salvage out all the time.”

“It puts you off when you see things you’ve given for salvage in the second hand shop. People should have authority for collecting.”

“A lady going round the village with a pony and trap had been a great success. old age pensioners might do a useful job if they could be provided with a handcart.”

“Horse and cart should go to every house to collect salvage. People who live a long way away would be included. Can’t expect them to bring collection down to the village.”


Voluntary collectors

Table 26

Suggestions and complaints about voluntary collectors

No. %
Children/Scouts/Youth organisations should be asked to help 30 3
Schools should be the organising centre for collections 20 2
Need for salvage steward to organise voluntary effort and gain co-operation of local authority 14 1
Children, if used, should be organised and work to system 10 1
Prosecution of people who collect for salvage and sell for profit 8 1
Miscellancous 12 1
TOTAL 94 10
All who had suggestions to make 958

Some detailed comments

“We do our bit, but I don’t know whether the authorities do theirs, what with all the stories going round about dumps.”

“I see they are at last collecting the dump. If people see this is being done, they are more likely to give.”

“Everyone wants to know what they are going to do with all the bottles in the village dump. Do the Ministry of Supply know themselves?”

“There should be more central depots where we can take our stuff.”

“Factories should have collections of huge amounts of waste iron. It’s out of proportion altogether to get housewives to salvage when iron girders by the ton have been lying about since the start of the war.”

“Saw an article in the paper about L.C.C. wasting salvage to build up marshes. Why not see to this?”

“Why should we have to beat tins to the thinness of a penny. If they could crush them for us, we could give them tons, but housewives have no time.”

“It’s not right, this chute, but it’s habit, and. you don’t think. Wants bringing home to you, it does, but it’s a long way to go if you don’t use it.”

“The scrap metal campaign was good, but what was the use of taking down iron railings and gates when some people are putting up wooden ones, using metal handles, nails, labour and wood.”

“Householders should burn useless rubbish and save the time of dustmen for essential stuff.”

“Glasgow spends a lot of money on salvage collection, and it’s only half done. It’s not fair to the war effort, or the ratepayers, or the housewife.”

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