The Secret Life of Rubbish

Episode 1

Radio Times
Review by:
David Crawford

The shift from a wartime make-do-and-mend culture to the disposable consumer society of today is detailed with evocative archive footage, interviews with old binmen and a jaunty soundtrack. Viewing the birth of modern Britain from “the back end”, modernity just looks messier and messier as changes in shopping habits, the creation of “planned obsolescence” and an increase in affluence produced ever rising tides of rubbish.

If you need a solution, look to Birmingham in the 1950s, which was in the vanguard of environmental thinking, disposing of rubbish with hardly any waste products.

About this programme

Part one of two. The evolution of waste collection in Britain, beginning with a look back at the post-Second World War years, when household rubbish mainly comprised ash. The Clean Air Act of 1956 put an end to coal fires, but the improving economy and the arrival of supermarkets in the 1960s marked a turning point, not only for the profusion of packaged goods and therefore refuse, but also for the explosion of consumerism.

Cast and crew


Chris Durlacher
Executive Producer
Emma Hindley
Chris Durlacher