Getting recycling wrong

During the second world war, scrap metal was made into tanks and women’s nylons into parachutes.

Err, no.

You don’t make parachutes out of nylon. You might out of silk. And you could cut up the parachutes to make silk stockings, but not really dew them up the other way around.

24 thoughts on “Getting recycling wrong”

  1. These days parachutes are made out of ripstop nylon. During WW2 they were made out of silk, and I read somewhere that half the railings, pans, etc collected for the war effort were utterly useless.

  2. @Arthur the Cat
    An uncle was an electrical engineer on subs during the war. After demob he went to work for a large London electrical factory. There was a serious shortage of large electric motors after the war & he was sent to one of the salvage depots to see if any stuff they had was serviceable or repairable. He said there were acres of iron garden fences piled up & rusting. Looked like they’d been there for years.

    The first jump with a nylon parachute was 6 June 1942 and they superseded silk during the war. I know my mother spoke of making clothes out of ‘liberated’ parachute nylon during the period. Very friendly with Yanks, was Mum.

  3. So all the tearing down of fences was actually a giant propaganda effort? Little of it was actually made into bullets?

  4. Bloke no Longer in Austria

    The idea was that railings would be recast into battleships and saucepans into Spitfires. I think it was Beaveerbrook that dreamed it up and it was of course just a ruse to make people feel “involved”. The scrapyards were indeed full of useless metal. I don’t think pans were made of aluminium in those days.

  5. The author is an idiot getting confused why stockings were rationed during the war – not because someone was taking stockings and turning them into parachutes but because they wanted to keep the silk from being turned into stockings in the first place.

  6. @Arthur the Cat

    Yep most off the fences/railings weren’t used either – an early occurrence of virtue signalling

    Women’s nylons didn’t really exist until Septics brought them over to lure women into their beds.

    The Groan – always wrong

  7. Just read that Guardian article. It reads like a report on the mentally ill. Why would you exhort people to do something serves no useful purpose & causes immense problems? You’d have to be…an environmentalist or something.

  8. BiS: shaming, hectoring, coercing people into doing something pointless keeps a lot of busybodies employed, keeps the serfs intimidated and provides helpful practice for the state’s next diktat.

  9. “Oliver Franklin-Wallis writes about science, health and entertainment” Attention, editor: you omitted ‘shite’ after “writes”.

  10. Bloke in Costa Rica

    Railings were sometimes wrought iron, which was expensive but ductile and hot-workable, or mild steel (likewise, but cheaper), or cast iron, which is neither, but cheap. All of them are utterly shite to make tanks out of (you can’t harden low-carbon mild steel or wrought iron, for instance; cast iron has too much carbon). Aircraft-grade aluminium and saucepan-grade aluminium were likewise very different beasts.

  11. Spitfires had quite a bit of wood and canvas. Metal wasn’t big except in the engine of course and for that you didn’t need home use metal you needed specific metal for specific purpose.
    Steel is often seen as one item, it isn’t. Lots of different steel with different amounts of material in the making and even different ores. Use the wrong steel for something and its expensive, does not do the job properly, collapses etc.
    In theory scrap metal was useful as a resource, in practice the setup needed to recover the material and reuse it for military applications had limitations.
    And in some instances a different plant was needed.

  12. ‘These days parachutes are made out of ripstop nylon. During WW2 they were made out of silk’

    Uhh . . . we had no access to silk. The Japanese were agin’ us.

  13. It’s hard to see what you’d use recycled plastics for. Most plastic items require a fairly tight engineering spec. You wouldn’t want the handle of your plastic bucket breaking, first time you used it. And you’re never going to achieve that with a recycled plastic because you don’t know what you’re putting in to start with.
    t was stupid enough to buy a load of cheap plastic rattan garden furniture. The rattan’s an extruded D section & it was pretty obvious (later) that whatever they’d extruded was less than uniform. I’d say recycled with a black dye colourant. For purpose, this stuff should be UV resistant. LFIW. Two years of Costa sun & the whole lot was brittle & disintegrating. Three grand down the drain.
    What do you use stuff for if you don’t know its properties? Food containers are out because it’s not food grade. Polyfilm’s out because it won’t be uniform enough at fine thicknesses. The only things I can think of are where you want bulk rather than strength or can put up with a short life. Foam it for insulation? But it’s a fire risk. Packaging, I suppose.But they’re telling us plastic packaging is bad for us.

  14. Growing up in Sheffield we still have more of our pre-war railings than other places because we all worked in the steel industry AND KNEW THAT RAILINGS WERE A CRAP FEED STOCK. And there are no reports of lorries arriving with loads of railings collected from the rest of the country to feed into the furnaces.

  15. Mum said that there were no stockings during the war (she obviously wasn’t as friendly with the Yanks as BiS’s Mum).

    She told me that when they went out they coloured their legs with gravy browning and drew a seam down the back with an eye-liner pencil…

  16. All those people hand sorting rubbish, both here and abroad, are privileged to have green jobs. Something we are all told is desirable.
    Recycling during the war was encouraged by the U boats who made imports problematic. Running a wartime economy when you don’t have to is pointless.
    I wonder how much recycling would happen without a landfill tax. I also wonder whether fly tipping would reduce in the absence of said tax.

  17. The local scrap merchants in my home town made a killing out of scrap iron railings during the war – like mentioned elsewhere they were all stripped from every house front and piled in the scrap yard, where they sat for the entire war, then afterwards the government forgot about them, and the dealer sold the lot on his own account……….

  18. BiC

    She told me that when they went out they coloured their legs with gravy browning and drew a seam down the back with an eye-liner pencil…

    Would it not have been easier, and more successful in terms of nylons, chocolate and fags etc, if she’d simply offered BJs all round to the Yanks?

  19. Would it not have been easier, and more successful in terms of nylons, chocolate and fags etc, if she’d simply offered BJs all round to the Yanks?

    Yes possibly!

    But she worked at the local British Army base servicing Bedford trucks so perhaps Yanks were not common locally…

  20. Mum did at one time hint that if it hadn’t been for flak over Germany, I could have been born American. Think! I could be Dennis the Peasant. Although that leaves us with the question, who would Dennis the Peasant now be?
    I think Mum quite enjoyed some aspects of the war.

  21. @Bloke in Cyprus August 19, 2019 at 9:31 am

    +1 Your mum said what my mum said and countless war movies, drama, docus and even Dads Army say

    When I mentioned this Groan article to her today, she cut me off and said “We didn’t have Nylons then” Me: “I know”

    Do Groan writers live in some parallel universe?

    @BraveFart August 19, 2019 at 11:32 am

    The Septics weren’t here in 1939, 1940 & 1941

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