A Christmas Past

The Recycling Team took to the streets on Sunday to join the Lord Provost and community groups from all over the city in a parade down Aberdeen’s busy Union Street to switch on the Christmas lights. With a theme of ‘Christmas Past and Christmas Present’, we stepped back in time to the 1940s, to World War II, to promote themes of Salvage for Victory and Make-Do-and-Mend to the 10,000 residents in attendance.

WW2 Poster - Paper, Rags, BonesWW2 Poster - Make Do And MendSay hello to Mrs Sew-and-Sew…

WW2 Poster - Mrs Sew and Sew

Mrs Sew-and-Sew was introduced to Britain during the height of the clothes rationing of the Second World War by the British Board of Trade. She was designed in 1944 to encourage the nation to make do with their clothing by repairing damaged garments and remodelling old clothing into new – or ‘upcycling’ as we know it today. Her booklets, aimed primarily at housewives, were instructional step-by-step guides on darning, stitching and renovating, and even included practical clothing care tips such as washing and ironing. In recent years, we have witnessed a comeback of Mrs Sew-and-Sew and the make-do-and-mend ethos she promoted during the war. The booklets of the 1940s might have been designed in response to war-time rationing but today they can be repurposed in response to difficulties in the current economic climate and an increased environmental awareness among consumers. John Lewis are among the many organisations to have republished Mrs Sew-and-Sew’s timeless advice, proving that these ideas are just as relevant today as they were then.

At the parade on Sunday, Winston Churchill kindly escorted the Women’s Voluntary Service (or W.V.S), Land Girl and Lord Kitchener down Union Street in our own Aberdeen City Council waste collection vehicle.

The Recycling Team at the parade

But, of course, the team wouldn’t have been complete without the 17th Aberdeen Scout group and Green Santa! Complete with army helmets and picket signs promoting salvage, make-do-and-mend and food wastage, the 17th Aberdeen Scout group marched down Union Street in true World War II fashion to encourage the residents of Aberdeen to see the importance of recycling – and to recycle as much now as they did back then. A huge thank you to the Scouts and Scout Leaders for taking part with us and to our Green Santa for being a great sport!

The Recycling Team and Scouts at the Christmas Parade

We remember the actions of our brave soldiers on the front line during WWII, but we can’t forget the efforts of those on the Home Front too. Housewives were encouraged to make-do-and-mend with Mrs Sew-and-Sew, the Rag and Bone Men collected valuable waste materials for war munitions and the Girl Guides, Boys’ Brigade and Scouts motivated towns and cities to ‘Salvage for Victory’ by donating scrap metal and paper towards the war effort. We found this 1942 photo of the Culter Boys’ Brigade collecting scrap metal in Aberdeen City Libraries’ Silver City Vault.

Culter Boys Brigade 1942

The Second World War inspired the idea that there is value in waste materials and that waste can actually be a resource. It taught the nation to care for their belongings and that their possessions were very precious. Both ideas that are very much relevant today, but none could be more relevant in Aberdeen at this moment than the food waste message promoted during WWII.

WW2 Poster - Food

WW2 Poster - Kitchen Waste By 1940, legislation was passed to make the wasting of food an offence due to the food shortages during wartime. Now, in 2014, recognising the value in waste and the environmental benefits associated with recycling food, new waste regulations mean it is a legal requirement for the Council to provide all residents with a food recycling collection service. You can recycle food in your brown wheelie bin or in one of the communal food recycling bins.

During World War II, the government produced a number of posters highlighting the problem of food wastage; many encouraging kitchen waste to be used to feed animals such as pigs and chickens. Today, the food you recycle is sent to a special processing facility in Aberdeenshire where it is turned into compost which can then be used in agriculture, horticulture and landscaping. Find out more about making your own compost.

We can all learn from, and be inspired by, the austere times of the 1940s; making do and mending, not buying what is not needed, recycling everything and wasting nothing.


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