Secondary Raw Materials

Secondary raw materials are raw materials gained from scrap metals, waste paper, old textiles, etc.

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

In the German Democratic Republic, aka East Germany, the first Worker and Farmer State on German Soil, Sekundär Rohstoffe, which translates into Secondary Raw Materials,, were in great demand and very little paper, glass, metal, and even old clothes, went into the landfills.

While the GDR certainly was no model for environmental protection – the opposite rather – as regards to the valuing of secondary raw materials we most certainly should follow the example that was set there.

“Haben Sie noch Altpapier” is part of the lyrics of a song of the Young Pioneers of the GDR and it was all about scrap, waste paper, and such like and the importance of those raw materials for the economy.

Sure, it was from pure necessity that the GDR engaged in this and made it a socialist and patriotic duty for people to look after their things and make them last and to return recyclables.

When virgin raw materials cannot be had on the world markets the the reclaimed ones are very high on the list and that was the case in East German, the GDR.

There will, no doubt, now be many that will blame the fact that the GDR was short of raw materials on the system of socialism/communism – though the system was, in reality, one of state capitalism – but that is not even 10% of the story.

The point is, though, that raw materials, virgin raw materials, are getting short in supply on the world markets today due to the fact that they are running out, and thus we would do well to look at the examples of the GDR, and of Cuba, and not just solely as regards to raw material and the reclaiming of them.

What we can learn from the recyclables collections and use of secondary raw materials is that they can make a difference, a real difference.

The problem in the capitalist countries, however, is that most of the secondary raw materials are mot used at home but are sent for processing where they are used to make goods which are then sold back to us. We need to bring the making of things back home so everything will benefit our own areas.

It does not compute to collect all those recyclables only to send them, as they are, unprocessed, abroad to China and other such places where low paid workers and 'slaves' then turn them into goods to be shipped back to us, especially not while our workers are jobless and our economy stands still.

But, obviously, this is not in the minds of the capitalists as that would mean lower profits. We could make things to sell for almost the same low prices as goods “Made in China” but then the CEOs and shareholders would lose out and no longer be able to rake in salaries of €40,000 and more per month while workers are not even on 10% of that per month.

Admittedly, there were things that were wrong in the first Worker and Farmer State on German soil but many ideas and practices we good and are things that we should have retained and even refined.

The GDR was a true Worker and Peasant State as indeed all those in government and in parliament came from the factories and the farms, predominately, or were the offspring of workers and farmers.

As I have said, the system, as it was, was far from perfect though much of it – in fact most of it – had to do with Stalinism and not socialism and communism per se. But, this is not intended as a discussion of the socialist/communist system, of whichever shade.

We need to learn to value secondary raw materials in the same way as it was done in the GDR and we must process them into new materials and new products at home and not abroad.

© 2012