Veolia ES Special Services Inc

2006 World Waste Survey Abstract

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Courtesy of Veolia ES Special Services Inc

In the past, humans regarded their resources as rare, knowing that their demands outweighed supply. Everything available had to be used and almost nothing went to waste. Due to limited techniques, natural resources remained largely unexploited and all types of waste had to be recycled. This attitude still exists today in remote villages in developing countries where everything has a value, and use and people still control the cycle of materials.

The Industrial Revolution that started at the end of the 18th century embraced development, predatory behavior and the apparently unlimited use of renewable and non-renewable resources. Technical developments enabled humans to go further, quicker and deeper, adopting a philosophy of discover and exploit. Little by little, resources to be recovered and waste (increasing at a rate equal to that of urbanization) were seen as pollutants that had to be discreetly collected (the invention in Paris of the “prefet Poubelle” (waste management system implemented by senator Eugène Poubelle) in 1884), hidden or buried and above all, destroyed. Rag-and-bone men in the “recycling” business searching through bins with their hooks looking for garbage only truly exist in emerging countries today, having disappeared from most developed countries in the latter half of the 20th century.

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