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Although many government programs are concentrated on recycling at home, a large portion of waste is generated by industry. The focus of many recycling programs done by industry is the cost-effectiveness of recycling. The ubiquitous nature of cardboard packaging makes cardboard a commonly recycled waste product by companies that deal heavily in packaged goods, like retail stores, warehouses, and distributors of goods. Other industries deal in niche or specialized products, depending on the nature of the waste materials that are present.

The wheelie bin is a waste container on wheels designed to make it easier for users to transport heavy loads of refuse to the curb or other pick-up point. George Dempster invented the Dempster-Dumpster system in the 1930s for automatically loading the contents of standardized mobile steel containers onto the dustcart. This led to the classic Dempster Dumpmaster waste collection vehicle of the 1950s, but wheelie bins did not become commonplace until the 1970s. The term dumpster is frequently used as a generic term for a large MGB or the non-mobile variety (known as a skip in the UK or Australia) in the United States.
In the US residential wheelie bins are also generically called "Herbie Curbies." The modern bin is a German invention of the 1970s in a patent held by Schneider, and licensed to other companies outside Germany.

The amount of money actually saved through recycling depends on the efficiency of the recycling program used to do it. The Institute for Local Self-Reliance argues that the cost of recycling depends on various factors around a community that recycles, such as landfill fees and the amount of disposal that the community recycles. It states that communities start to save money when they treat recycling as a replacement for their traditional waste system rather than an add-on to it and by "redesigning their collection schedules and/or trucks."

In pre-industrial times, there is evidence of scrap bronze and other metals being collected in Europe and melted down for perpetual reuse.[4] In Britain dust and ash from wood and coal fires was collected by 'dustmen' and downcycled as a base material used in brick making. The main driver for these types of recycling was the economic advantage of obtaining recycled feedstock instead of acquiring virgin material, as well as a lack of public waste removal in ever more densely populated areas.[3] In 1813, Benjamin Law developed the process of turning rags into 'shoddy' and 'mungo' wool in Batley, Yorkshire. This material combined recycled fibres with virgin wool. The West Yorkshire shoddy industry in towns such as Batley and Dewsbury, lasted from the early 19th century to at least 1914.

The northwestern United States has difficulty finding markets for recycled newspaper, given the large number of pulp mills in the region as well as the proximity to Asian markets. In other areas of the U.S., however, demand for used newsprint has seen wide fluctuation.

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