Any old iron?

Despite not being a Cockney, and being a mere economic migrant to these fair lands, I have decided to get into the spirit of the Cockney Heritage Festival. There are many things about Cockney culture I don’t get*, however, music hall is one I do appreciate.

So in a tenuous linkage I asked Tower Hamlets if they had any old iron?**.

So what is the answer? Disappointingly it’s, yes/no/maybe.

I asked this question, inspired by @olopoto’s curiosity, on what happened to metal railings when they were removed by the council. I asked the council about the quanity of railings that had been removed (linear metres of railings, weight of the scrap metal etc) over the past five years.

However, LBTH don’t keep a record as they state that most railing removal is ad hoc. I (and I think @olopot) had assumed there was a financial impetus to removing railings, as the metal would have scrap value which would give rise to the likelihood of an organised removal to generate some cash, but this appears not to be the case.

The Council’s full response to my question:

We do not have details as to the quantities of metal that have been removed in total as this is generally carried out as part of much larger highways / parks improvement schemes on an ad hoc basis. The cost for the removal of railings has been subject to competitive tendering and varies according to whether items are fit to be recycled or reused.We would expect that the tendered cost includes for scrap value and as storage costs for items set aside for re-use, we only store higher cost items for re-use: if we cannot re-use other items promptly disposal would be the most economic option.

So it looks like the council haven’t considered the value of the metal in their street furniture and play it somewhat by ear as to whether to retain, recycle or sell.

Similarly, we also wondered about the recent programme of bin removal, which has seen metal bins replaced with plastic bins. I assumed this mass replacement was again a way of realising the value of the scrap metal. However, this does not appear (fully) to be the case, with a small number of them being redeployed elsewhere in the borough.

The response on the matter of bins was:

We do not have historic data but most recently we can advise that in August2012 a total of 7 metal bins were removed across the Borough. From January 2013 there were 25 metal litter bins removed from Wapping area. Although the bins may appear to be in good condition many of these bins had corrosion from the base. This deterioration makes the base unstable, the doors then become loose making themu nsightly and unsafe for use. Approximately 4 or 5 bins will utilised and have been earmarked to be used in a Tower Hamlets park. The unusable bins are currently in the process of being scrapped with best achievable prices being sought.  The weight of this type of bin is approx. 52 kg.

So how much would the sale of bins for scrap have been for?

We have 20 bins scrapped, each weighing 52kg, which gives a total of 1,040kg, or just over a tonne (metric). Given the number of stories about metal theft I was surprised to discover that steel isn’t all that lucrative for scrap (unless it’s stainless steel) and you’re looking at getting around 15-30p per kg of  scrap, which translates to a miserable £156-£312. How much do plastic bins sell for? About £100-250 depending on design, so this bin refresh was not the lucrative exercise we expected or suspected!

*Coming from a culture where the pie is venerated and would only be sacrificed in a Judgment of Solomon situation, I cannot fathom why denizens of the East End tolerate such abuse of their baked meat goods. Whenever I’ve walked past a pie shop, or seen one on TV, I look at the almost universally blackened top of the pie and question at what point did it all go wrong. I can understand eel and parsley liquor going on an eel pie (which they were traditionall), but why this continued into the post-eel epoch (with or without eel in the liquour) I cannot comprehend.
** There are theories that the song ‘Any old iron’ is in fact a covertly gay work. (Iron hoof=poof; any old iron=are there any gay men)

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