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"Human beings hardly ever learn from the experience of others. They learn; when they do, which isn't often, on their own, the hard way."
- Robert Heinlein

Garbage Mine  
  The idea that recycling can spawn entirely new industries.  

This is an interesting idea; I think the general idea was floating around in the 1970's, but I can't find a reference.

...soft-drink cans, ketchup bottles and disposable diapers... engine oil, transmission fluid, and electroplating residue... tires and cars, broken stereos and obsolete computer..

Some suggested leaving the sites exactly as they were, so future archaeologists could find a wealth of detail from the prodigal middens of TwenCen California...

It might have been predictable, and yet few saw the answer coming. In a later day of harder times, of short resources and mandatory recycling, it was inevitable that those landfills should draw the eyes of innovators, looking for ways to get rich.

Iron, aluminum, silica ... nickel, copper, zinc...

Claims were filed, mining plans presented and analyzed.... Excavation began between the ancient hills.

Into a past generation's waste, their desperate grandchildren dug for treasure.

The garbage rush was on.

From Earth, by David Brin.
Published by Bantam in 1990
Additional resources -

This is an idea whose time has come; it goes beyond recycling.

If it makes you feel any better, North Americans have always produced trash. According to archaeological studies of a clan of Native Americans who lived around 6,500 BC, each person produced an average of 5.3 pounds of waste per day during the hunting season.

Note: The first municipal dump was established in Athens in around 500 B.C.

Read more about the history of waste.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Earth
  More Ideas and Technology by David Brin
  Tech news articles related to Earth
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  - The Garbage Mines Of Ghana

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