Friday is the day when the garbage gets picked up by the San Diego county council. Thursday evening I rolled out our two plastic garbage bins to the front of the house for pick up the following day. The blue one for recycled items. The black one for non recyclable items. Both were jammed full. How do two people accumulate so much garbage in one week I wondered? Then my memory bank switched on. How much garbage did we produce in WW2 when, as a child, we lived in that tiny cottage in Raglan Road off Berry Lane? Who came to collect it? The Billericay Urban District Council (BUDC)? Was it paid for by rates? How did that work? I jogged my little grey cells for details.
Memory says that there was very little garbage to be disposed of. Potato peelings, spent tea leaves, onion skins, egg shells, cabbage stems and other vegetable throw away was spaded into the vegetable garden soil to act as fertiliser. Today great masses of paper are delivered as newspaper, magazines, periodicals and advertisements. Not so in WW2. The newspaper was restricted to six pages including a single page insert. This went to help start the fire in the grate the next morning aided by whatever paper might be available from an empty tea packet or a torn up shredded wheat carton. So there were no paper products needing disposal. Empty milk bottles were exchanged daily for new deliveries so there were no milk bottles needing disposal. Plastic was unheard of so no plastic needed to make its way to the bin. In fact there was no bin! And there was no BUDC who came around to collect extraneous garbage! Very little foodstuffs came in tins as metal was needed for the war effort. Glass containers were in evidence usually for jam or marmalade. Lyle’s golden syrup is the only foodstuff I can remember in a tin.
Once in a great while I can remember my father having a little bonfire at the bottom of the garden composed of a few pieces of garbage or refuse not deemed suitable for recycling. Other than that, for glass primarily, there were a few bins scattered throughout the village. The closest of these was a a few steps down Beatrice Road from the junction of Berry Lane, Bridge Street, and Beatrice Road on the north side of the road. This was a galvanized metal container perhaps six feet by four feet by three feet high. It was meant to serve as a neighbourhood dumping place for glass, bottles, tins, and whatever. Presumably it was intended that the BUDC empty it periodically but I can only ever remember it as being filled to overflowing and swarming with flies. I particularly remember this dump as I was running (probably chased or chasing) around the dump and fell. I still have two scars on my hand to this day from the fall among broken glass. Today the fall would would probably have required a few stitches but back then — the idea would never have occurred to anyone.
Today there is such an emphasis on saving the environment, minimising our carbon footprint, economising on our use of the planet’s resources. Certainly a very good concept. When we look back at how we lived in WW2 it seems we were living much closer to those goals than we are today.