Thrifty era gone, but not forgotten

23:35, Feb 02 2014
 John Brett
Nothing new: John Brett, of Blenheim, says people have been recycling in various shapes and forms for decades

Recycling is not just a recent phenomenon born of an age that has seen people across the world become increasingly aware of the need to look after our environment.

John Brett, 87, of Blenheim, said it also happened when he was a boy, albeit in a different way.

Mr Brett grew up in Stockton-on-Tees, what he described as a fairly poor part of northern England.

His family were conservative, making sure that almost nothing went to waste, he said.

"They bought the cheapest cuts of meat they could find, if they bought coal, they would use it again, and if they bought tins of things or a jar - anything airtight, they would be used again for flour or oats."

The dustman would stop by on his horse and cart once a week to collect the neighbourhood rubbish, but there was never much to put out as people only bought what they knew they would use, Mr Brett said.


"Very little was wasted, everything was used."

People reused and recycled in ingenious ways, Mr Brett said.

Fish and chips were wrapped up in newspapers and newspapers were cut into squares to use as toilet paper.

Glass milk bottles were refilled at the shop they were bought at and, when Mr Brett moved to Blenheim 31 years ago, he also became accustomed to seeing people refill their glass beer flagons at the pub.

"It was recycling, it wasn't just dumping everything," Mr Brett said.

People these days were not as thrifty, he said.

"There's much more wastage today; that's got to be got rid of.

"Everything is in plastic bags and cartons and people spend so much more on food than they did in Northern England."

Many people were not as big on saving and had lost control of their spending, buying things they did not really need, Mr Brett said.

"They're just wasters today. They want this, and they want that, and they get it."

"Why do you want 30 pairs of shoes in the wardrobe?"

Mr Brett was pleased about the Re-Use Shop at Blenheim's Resource Recovery Centre and the council's weekly kerbside recycling collection.

"Thank God there's still recycling . . . someone else's waste is someone else's pick-up."

The Marlborough Express