June 25, 2022 Letters to the Editor: Retraining in Wartime | Letters

Wartime recycling

Hooray for the recent “Recycling is Magic” guest column that appeared in The Times-Dispatch. Once upon a time there was great recycling. Our survival depended on it.

Those of us who were in primary school during World War II helped collect newspapers, piled up in schoolyards, for reuse. All types of paper were in short supply due to wartime needs, including newsprint, paper towels, toilet paper, school paper, etc.

Every piece of junk that could be scrounged up was routed to various readers. Materials included tin cans with cut ends that were walked on to flatten them; pots and pans; utensils; discarded metal bed frames; old bicycles; metal barrels; gates and fences; and even foil wrappers of chewing gum sticks – anything that could be converted into something needed for the war effort.

Of course, the handy rolls of foil and plastic bags didn’t exist yet, so things were wrapped in wax paper instead. Also, old tires – anything rubber was reused.

People also read…

We kept cans near the kitchen to catch the grease that had spilled out, which was used in wartime. My grandmother has accumulated a ball of string collected and rolled up, to donate for the reuse of fibers.

Lots of carpooling and walking saved rationed gasoline, which reduced vehicle emissions. On the other hand, excessive industrial production during wartime caused a lot of air pollution in some places.

An older relative was asked why it all stopped after the war. Couldn’t the stuff still be used so that more people could have stuff?

The answer was that the use of resources was better for the economy. So that’s been the case for years. Again, it’s time to collect and reuse a lot of stuff, especially if it can be for practical and peaceful conservation purposes.