Recycling has come a long way since the 1800s, and a book by Susan Strasser details how recycling has changed over the years. “Waste and Want: A Social History of Trash” takes a look back at how recycling first started, how the environmental movement gained traction and how the concept of zero waste came about.
History.com has more information:
In the 1800s, there were no blue recycling bins, no sorting, no recycling trucks rumbling down the alley. Recycling as we know it didn’t exist. But people were way better at it.
“People recycled far more than we do now,” says Susan Strasser, author of Waste and Want: A Social History of Trash. If the elbows in a shirt wore out, you’d take the sleeves off, turn them inside out, and voila: new shirt. If a dress went out of style, you added new buttons or sent it back to the dressmaker to fashion a trendier frock. Eventually, the fabric would be turned into a quilt or a rag rug or just a rag.
“Before there was municipal solid waste disposal, stuff would pile up in your house if you didn’t reuse it,” Strasser points out. “In addition, people who made things had an understanding of the value of material goods that we don’t have at all. Literally, if everything you wore, sat on, or used in your house was something you made or your mother or uncle or the guy down the street made, you had a very different sense of value of material goods.”