Home Front - the civilian war effort

Recycling in the war

National salvage drives became very much an important part of the wartime years throughout the whole of Britain. Everyone was encouraged to 'do their bit' by handing over all none essential aluminium utensils for use in the manufacture of aircraft to help the war effort.


Posters, information leaflets and slogans persuaded people that they too had a part to play in fighting the war. Songs were made up and played on the radio to encourage people to 'Do their bit for the war effort'. 

Songs such as:

My saucepans have all been surrendered,
The teapot is gone from the hob,
The colander's leaving the cabbage,
For a very much different job.

So now, when I hear on the wireless
Of Hurricanes showing their mettle,
I see, in a vision before me,
A Dornier chased by my kettle.

Today, we are all encouraged to recycle as many products as possible. We still recycle many of the same things as during the war. We don't recycle things such as old razor blades, toothpaste tubes, milk bottle tops, pots and pans. If it could be reused, then it was.

Some things could be reused: old wellingtons or tyres would be melted down and turned into tyres for aircrafts and lorries; old meat bones were boiled and made into glue; paper was made into shell cups; and even waste food was turned into feed for pigs and chickens. All had a use in helping to defeat Hitler.

The list of items below are for recycling:

  • Brown paper
  • String
  • Newspaper
  • Jam jar
  • Plastic bottle
  • Meat bones
  • Bicycle
  • Bed sheet

What will they be turned into and how will they help to defeat Hitler?


From the list above which item could not be recycled in the 1940s?

Which two items could be re-used again instead of being recycled?

Can you design a cartoon character to promote recycling?

Document icon Learning article provided by: World of James Herriot | 
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