Scholarly Comments on Academic Economics

Fact Versus Conjecture in the History of Industrial Waste Utilization

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Abstract

This piece is a response to Pierre Desrochers’s criticism of an article by me. This response challenges Desrochers’s argument that market forces compelled nineteenth- and early twentieth-century manufacturers to recycle, voluntarily, the vast majority of their wastes. I argue that Desrochers provides no counter-evidence that disproves my findings and that he bases some of his criticism on conjecture that is factually inaccurate and/or overly simplistic. I conclude that to do justice to this important and complex subject, historians need to investigate the barriers that discouraged manufacturers from using their wastes, as well as the full range of regulatory as well as market-based drivers that encouraged them to do so.

This article is a response to Freedom Versus Coercion in Industrial Ecology: A Reply to Boons by Pierre Desrochers (EJW, May 2012).