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Collecting food scraps for pigs
on the WW2 home front

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Nothing was easy for families on the home front in world war two home front. Much of their efforts went to stretching their food ration to feed their families, making do and mending to cope with shortages, growing their own vegetables and keeping chickens or rabbits for eggs and fresh meat.

A bin for food waste destined for pigs, as used by households and canteens in WW2.

A bin for food waste for pigs, photographed in the Imperial War Museum. It looks too new to be authentic and is not at all as recollected by Peter Johnson and Christine Tolton.

However, they also pulled together and they participated in national initiatives to help with food production on the wider home front. One such initiative was to recycle food scraps for farmers to use for pig food - known as 'pig swill'.

WW2 World War Two poster encouraging the collection of food scraps for pig swill.

World War Two poster encouraging households to collect food scraps for pig swill. Photographed in the Museum of Nottingham Life.

The initiative was of course particularly aimed at families who did not keep chickens or rabbits, and at canteens, restaurants and hospitals - wherever groups of people ate. Peter Johnson, a child at the time, recollects how it worked in his local area - see the inset.

Food waste collection for pig swill was also in operation in Edgware while I was growing up. I don't remember it, though, as the public bins were not on our route to the shops. Christine Tolton recollects them along Edgwarebury Lane, which was a well-used thoroughfare leading out from the centre of Edgware with housing on both sides and with roads of houses at intervals leading off it. The location must have been ideal as numerous women would not have been far from a bin.

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Food waste collection in World War Two

Can I remember the collection of waste food! I can still smell it!

In the wider area of Edmonton, north London, where I lived during the Second World War, the bins for the waste food collection were provided by the council. They were large, heavy metal, galvanized ones, rather like milk churns or heavy duty dustbins, and they had heavy lids to keep out flies. They were spaced out along streets so that each bin was shared by a number of households. Factories, hospitals and canteens also had bins.

WW2 street bins for food waste for pigs.

 Street bins for collecting food waste for pigs. Photo courtesy of Bruce Castle Museum.

All sorts of food waste went into the buckets, from vegetable peelings to scraps of meat, all carried out unwrapped in household buckets or bowls.

The waste was emptied into large tanks on the back of trucks, which came along on a regular basis, and the waste was transported to processing plants around London. In Edmonton our local processing plant was in Park View Road, Tottenham. The rich aroma could be smelt for miles around. The waste was poured into trays and baked to sterilise it. At this stage it was solid, in appearance and resembled bread pudding - known to us locals as Tottenham Pudding.

The 'pudding' was then sold to pig farmers who added water to it to feed their pigs.

This type of recycling continued until the mid 1950s. I'm not sure as to why it was discontinued - maybe the cost of production, or the cheap imports of Danish bacon that took place around the time.

Peter Johnson


There were bins attached to the lampposts along Edgwarebury Lane, Edgware which were for everyone to drop in left-over food scraps. These were collected and used for pig food. They had their own farmyard fragrance, hard to describe, but I can still smell it! A sort of vegetative barnyard.

Christine Tolton


An adventure in pig swill!

There were pig swill bins at the top of our street in Edgware. One was tied to the last tree close to the intersection of Vancouver Road and Bacon Lane.

It must have been around 1947 or 48, and I was 5 or 6 years old. One day, we kids were playing 'Tin Can Copper' in the street. This involved throwing an old tin can and everyone hiding. The tin can was thrown and everyone dashed off. Some hid among the street trees, now long gone, and I was the last to hide. Without thinking, I saw the pig swill bin, ran over to it, threw the lid off and jumped right in. Being so small, I could fit in.

There was a sudden splash as I launched myself in - and then the smell hit me! I was soaked in pig swill. The worst part was walking back home to number 79 Vancouver Road, and confronting my mother!

Dave Miller

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Pig swill banned

The Government announced today that it will ban pig swill, identified as a key link in the chain of infection which spread foot-and-mouth disease across the country.

The Independent, 27 March 2001

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This website Join me in the 1900s is a contribution to the social history of everyday life in 20th century Britain from the early 1900s to about 1960, seen through personal recollections and illustrations, with the emphasis on what it was like to live in those times.