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The quest of the Middle Ages was for the stone that would turn lead into gold, but the aim of the nineteenth century seems to be the transmutation of waste into wealth. As a natural consequence, the elaborate and expensive utilization works of Europe, and the various processes of dealing with American garbage have been established.
Everybody believes in the gold in a dust heap, but as yet it has not materialized. In the light of practical experiment it seems quite as far from realization as the philosopher's stone—also once an object of universal belief. There is not, to my knowledge, a single public municipal system that is run at a profit in the disposal of garbage, no matter what its promises on paper or in the theoretical stage have been. Every system being subsidized—or costing in operating expenses from 7 cents a ton upward to a dollar or more.
STEWART DH. THE GOLD IN GARBAGE.. JAMA. 1895;XXV(12):484-486. doi:10.1001/jama.1895.02430380014002b