Respect for the dismantlers

In this week’s issue, B&CB visits the community of bus dismantlers and recyclers just outside of Barnsley. It was, above all else, humbling.

Carving buses apart with a cutting torch is a hard business. Even in snow, the work goes on; tough men working in the grime of smoke, grease, oil and mud to reduce vehicles to elemental scrap. There may be money in the metals, but bus recyclers are also presented with ever more complex layers of bureaucracy, never-ending bills to pay to dump the worthless waste that’s left over, and unrealistic demands that such a business can be made ‘clean.’

“I don’t think bus builders give a moment’s thought to what will happen when their vehicles reach the end of their life,” said one dismantler. It’s truism for so much of our society, in the same way that some people toss rubbish in the wheelie bin without a thought.

Life for working men in Barnsley was always tough. In 1984, the area around Boulder Bridge Lane was still the heart of a coal mining community, with more than 50 mines which employed hundreds of men in equally unpleasant work. The mines were all closed and, shamefully, we left their communities to pick up the pieces.

But this is one resilient community, and B&CB was not only welcomed warmly by the people we met, but we came away with the impression that in this strange place, people look out for one another.

Whatever you may think about dismantlers’ yards, you can’t visit one without coming away glad it’s not the way you earn a living, and in genuine admiration of the straight-talking people who work there. They clean up after us. For that, and much more, they earn our respect.

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