By Richard Keller, Department of Public Works

World War two era poster that reads they've got guts. Back em up with more metal

Like many of you on Memorial Day, I found myself reflecting on the dedication and sacrifice of the men and women of our nation’s armed forces. I also got to thinking about the ways in which civilians have supported soldiers’ efforts over the years, and one thing is very clear: History shows that recycling can be a patriotic act.

During World War II, Japan invaded Southeast Asia and cut off supplies of tin and rubber. Therefore, in January 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt established the War Production Board, whose role included allocating resources such as steel, aluminum and rubber.

World War two era poster that states Wanted for Victory, waste paper, old rags, scrap metals, old rubber

As a result, citizens participated in scrap drives to collect materials for the war effort. They recycled scrap metal (for bombs, ammunition, tanks, guns and battleships), rubber (for gas masks, life rafts, cars and bombers), paper, fats and tin. Promotion of this recycling effort included creative posters on recycling various scrap materials that emphasized the connection between recycling and the war effort. Most of these posters included proud and patriotic messaging, but others played into people’s fears and used offensive stereotypes to motivate their contributions to the effort.

While there are no figures available on the recycling percentages during the war, the recycling effort was national in publicity, but mobilized locally. 

And while no one wants a war, it would be great if we could again inspire Americans to recycle for the USA!

Looking to improve your recycling efforts? Read information about accepted recyclables on the County’s website