A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46



To judge from our sample, it is difficult to say how good the individual housewife is at salvaging metal, as a number of towns issued an order not to separate metal, but to put it in together with the refuse. This was the case with 9 towns in the sample.

Salvage Officer; “The public is asked not to put empty tins separately for salvage, but to put them into the dustbin with their ordinary refuse, the reason being that the containers for metal on the dust-carts are not large enough to accommodate such bulky articles. When the refuse is taken to the destructor it is passed over a belt, and large articles of metal such as tins can be easily extricated. This fact is not yet generally known, and many people carefully clean their tins and put them out separately, and are most indignant when they see the dustman throw them in with the other refuse. There has been considerable correspondence in the local press on this subject.”

Dustman: “If people would only put their tins into the dust-bin; to keep them separately is quite senseless, as we put them into the refuse cart and the magnet picks them out. It makes collection so much more difficult.”

There were serious complaints from a number of salvage officers about the B.B.C. giving instructions to keep metal separate, when in fact it should be put into the refuse. Such instructions, it is said, which have to be contradicted by the local authority, make for confusion and have a bad effect on the housewife, who loses confidence in the efficiency of the authorities.

“ “Do you think it is fair - we put the metal and tins separately, and we see the dustmen toss them all together. I had an awful job to get two beds taken which had been bomb damaged.”

Dustmen do not always bother to take tins which are kept separately,

The difficulty of moving big iron articles presents a problem to the corporation. Dustmen complain that “it is almost getting too big for the dustmen now”; they demand that special lorries should be sent for the collection of bigger things. The Salvage Officers are often prepared to do this, if they are notified; some housewives do so, while others find the writing of a letter the great difficulty. To overcome this, some local authorities have organised street dumps and street wardens who can be much more easily notified, and who in their turn notify the corporation. Even if this system is working, the difficulties of transport and labour remain.

71.7% collect metal regularly, in the sample; meaning thereby that they keep it separate. The differences between social groups are:

A and B C and D
Collects metal regularly 332 80% 1005 69%

Difference between towns cannot be interpreted because of the different instructions issued in different areas.

42% searched their houses especially for metal salvage. Here urban and rural differences are significant.

Urban Rural

Where there are local campaigns, the percentage of regular collectors is relatively high. In national campaigns metal salvage was stressed very strongly. In any case, the public seem to be very conscious of the necessity for metal saving: one reason is that it is relatively easy mentally to associate metal salvage with the war effort; another was that at the time of the inquiry the debate on the taking away of iron rails was still in full swing.

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