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Where there’s muck, there’s brass

by | May 28, 2019 | Blog | 0 comments


I was lucky to grow up in a lovely neighbourhood, in a street lined with huge Victorian and Edwardian houses, complete with servants’ quarters, surrounded by large gardens with beautiful trees. My mother described it as a ‘professional’ neighbourhood, however, the swankiest, poshest house of all belonged to a family that owned a scrap metal yard. They had a Rolls Royce, their daughter had about 30 Barbie dolls and their children’s birthday parties were something else!

That was when I learned that, as my mum was wont to say, “Where there’s muck, there’s brass”, which, if you didn’t know, means that dirty, messy and smelly activities are sometimes the most lucrative.

I used to imagine that they spent all day dressed like rag and bone men, driving around in grotty trucks picking up bits of metal from the ground, when in actual fact they probably sat in expensive offices wearing tailored suits and ordering an army of workers around. That’s the best way to work in a dirty industry… keeping your hands clean and letting someone else deal with the muck.

I know I wouldn’t like to do a dirty job, although I have deep appreciation and admiration for those who do them and I think they deserve any penny they can get. My dirty job is trying to achieve perfection, but I haven’t managed it so far.

But now there’s even more in muck, particularly since scientists have found that human waste contains millions of euros worth of metals. Yes, as well as good, we flush a fortune in platinum, silver as well as rare elements like palladium and vanadium down the loo every year. Extracting these metals from sewage is a win-win proposal. Currently seen as ‘nuisance’ metals, they serious limit how much of these ‘biosolids’ can be used on fields and forests.

So, how does this treasure end up in our bodies, and then, down the WC? Apparently, there are metals everywhere, in hair products, in detergents and there is even silver in some socks that helps to stop our feet from smelling bad. Many of these metals end up in solid waste. Even if it’s there, I can assure you that I won’t be the one looking for it!

If you don’t mind bad smells and dirt, there are plenty of highly paid jobs out there waiting for you. For example, rubbish collectors in many countries earn a magnificent salary. A ‘garbage man’ in the United States was earning an approximate annual salary of $34,420 back in 2011, which is a lot more than most people with good qualifications are earning in Spain at the moment.

As Mike Rowe famously said, “Dirt used to be a badge of honour. Dirt used to look like work. But we’ve scrubbed the dirt off the face of work, and consequently we’ve created this suspicion of anything that’s too dirty.”

Now wash your hands!

Juliet Allaway