Wednesday, September 25, 2013

How the Victorians Recycled

How the Victorians Recycled

In recent years, recycling has been promoted as a way to save the rainforests and conserve our natural resources. But in 19th century England, an entire class of people made their living by recycling.

It started at the very top level: Upper-class women gave their castoff clothes to their handmaids. The maid wore the garment until she tired of it or got a new gown from Madame, and passed it along to the lower household help (scullery maids, cooks). Once the clothing was no long wearable, the final owner added it to the "rag bag," a collection of fabric scraps and pieces, which he or she ultimately sold to the rag-and-bone man. He, in turn, sold the rags to a paper manufacturer, since paper was still made using mostly linen and rag.

Household cooks made extra pocket money by selling the "drippings" of roasted animals to poor people, who used the congealed fat instead of butter. Household ashes were sorted through for any valuables (discarded silverware, brick chips, etc.) by servants and then sold to brickmakers. The bone chips and pieces of brick they'd salvaged were sold as construction material, and old boots and shoes were collected and sold to makers of Prussian blue pigment. The homeless poor scoured the streets, collecting dog droppings, which they sold to tanyards, who used the material for processing leather.

All of it was grueling, exhausting, thankless labor, but for many folks of that era, it was the difference between supporting oneself and being committed to a workhouse.

Home Electronics Disposal