Waste in pre-industrial society …

Even though in the past human beings produced small amounts of waste, the problem of where to deposit the same existed even then. Whatever could not be recycled or reutilized was often thrown on the road, with severe consequences for health. Alternatively waste was burnt or buried underground outside the inhabited centres, thus giving rise to the first waste dumps. Waste in ancient times was very different from ours. Waste was organic and consisted mainly of products that were discarded by the workshops and kitchens, human and animal waste, carcasses and their remains. The first humans who thought of waste disposal by burying waste underground were our ancestors – near their prehistoric settlements, in fact, archaeologists have found the remains of their meals (the bones of the prey they hunted) and small tools and earthenware. Instead, it seems that the Greeks were the first to feel the need for a public town-cleaning service, and a group of sweepers were appointed (probably slaves) to clean the city of Athens. During the Roman Empire, the Romans established the first public service for waste collection and disposal, and they exported this model all over the Roman Empire. In the Middle Ages the situation worsened remarkably and the citizens considered the road a privileged place where to get rid of their waste. In this period the forerunners of city waste dumps were born, cavities that were known as butti. The few inorganic waste products were disposed of differently. Before becoming waste, the objects changed owners various times, passing through the entire social chain. In ancient societies, and up to the dawn of the industrial society, whatever was thrown away, because it was considered useless by the rich, became precious for the poor.

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