by Michael Smith (Veshengro)
The rags collected by members of this occupation were used for what, you may ask. Well, not to be recycled into new clothes but to be made into rags for cleaning, primarily in industry, for gun cleaning patches, and also for making paper. And yes, the Rag and Bone Man also collected bones. The latter where made into fertilizer, before the advent of petro-chemical ones, namely bone meal, often mixed with fish and blood.
But rags and bones where not the only things, despite the title, that the Rag and Bone Man collected. His main target would have always been scrap metal of all kinds, as that is where the money was, although he, obviously, also got paid for the rags and the bones that he collected from households and other premises.
The Rag and Bone Man performed a vital function for the economy and in keeping valuable (secondary) raw materials out of the waste dumps, that is to stay stopping them from becoming waste in the first place.
In spite of this he was looked down upon by most members of society and today his activities are being curtailed by more and more restrictive local and central government legislation. This despite the fact that his activities nowadays are more important than ever as to preventing valuable resources from becoming waste.
Today we need a modern version of the old Rag and Bone Man and rags (and maybe even bones) should once again be on the collection menu also. As should, possibly, be plastic bottles and aluminum and steel cans, plus a variety of other things.