The purpose of this paper is to offer a few pointers as to why the methods for recycling waste that were employed during the nineteenth century were entirely replaced by flush toilets, incineration and garbage dumps during the 1920s. The study is based on studies of historical sources that relate the story of the development of waste disposal in Gothenburg. This paper attempts to trace the contours of the motive forces underlying this development. Waste disposal was developed in a field lying between concepts of the danger of garbage and its usefulness. Yet this assertion must be modified. Medical misgivings were boosted by culturally accentuated experiences of waste as unpleasant and morally ruinous. The utilitarian aspects of waste were discussed on the basis of political economic arguments in which a type of recycling was advocated. In reality, the discussion of the value of garbage was often reduced to a question of its market value. Attitudes to growth, social organisation, hygiene and prudery all contributed to develop waste disposal systems in a particular direction.