Recycling for Victory! 18 Great Posters From When Every Little Bit of Scrap Made a Difference

Scrap poster
credit: Northwestern University

It's just a single word. But it says it all. Recycling scrap and other materials was a very big deal; they go through a lot of steel and aluminum in ships, planes and tanks, and the mills are working full out.

credit: American Legion Collection

The War Production Board didn't mind putting it in a poster.

credit: American Legion Collection

Most of the real scrapping posters were aimed at farmers and industry, so they tended to have a more graphic and militarized motif; your scrap goes to war and takes down enemy airplanes...

credit: American Legion Collection

and submarines...

credit: American Legion Collection

and guns.

credit: Northwestern University

They were a little more subtle on the home front, collecting much more than just metal. Almost everything could be reused and recycled.

credit: American Legion Collection

You could win with tin cans, which mostly had paper labels then so you had to do more than just throw it in the bin.

credit: Hennepin collection

But everybody did it.

credit: American Legion Collection

Fat and grease are valuable again as people turn it into biodiesel. To do so they have to separate the glycerine; During the war it was the glycerine that was needed to make explosives.

credit: Hennepin collection

Powerful stuff!

credit: unknown

As this poster notes, most bottles for milk or pop were returned anyways for their deposits. However, people still had to be encouraged.

credit: Northwestern University

It was the same in industry; drums were reused, but the faster they are returned, the fewer that are needed.

credit: unknown

Most rubber at the time came from natural rubber plantations, many of which were strategic and across the oceans. Recycling rubber (and minimizing your driving) were critical.

credit: bbc

It wasn't just in America either; in Britain everyone pitched in.

credit: unknown

And in Canada too.

credit: Northwestern University

The general rule then, that still applies today, is that people should just not waste. The message could go out with clever posters like this, made up of drawing tools.

credit: Hennepin collection

Or with seriously heavy and over-the-top posters like this. No sense of humor here!

credit: Victory Garden of Tomorrow

The messages are still relevant, and still being remixed, like this one from Portland designer Joe Wirtheim at The Victory Garden of Tomorrow.