2010 volume 42(5) pages 1033 – 1048

Cite as:
Cooper T, 2010, "Burying the ‘refuse revolution’: the rise of controlled tipping in Britain, 1920 – 1960" Environment and Planning A 42(5) 1033 – 1048

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Burying the ‘refuse revolution’: the rise of controlled tipping in Britain, 1920 – 1960

Timothy Cooper

Received 28 March 2009; in revised form 24 September 2009

Abstract. This paper investigates the emergence of ‘controlled tipping’ as the dominant method of municipal waste disposal in Britain between 1920 and 1960. The triumph of controlled tipping, despite the availability of alternative disposal technologies, needs to be understood in the context of the contested meanings of ‘waste’ and ‘wasteland’, which helped to determine attitudes and approaches to disposal. Following the conclusion of the First World War there was an urgent requirement for a cheap means of disposing of increasing amounts of urban municipal waste. The obvious choice was tipping. Before the war, however, refuse tipping had been rejected as insanitary by the emerging waste disposal profession. Public cleansing professionals therefore had to recuperate tipping as a medically and environmentally benign mode of disposal that was reconcilable with the needs of sanitary science and landscape preservation. Controlled tipping, with its combined claims to scientific progress and the revalorization of refuse, enabled dumping to be successfully re-produced as the dominant mode of municipal refuse disposal in Britain. However, tipping faced further challenges after 1945 from changing popular understandings of the value of ‘derelict’ landscapes and from the politics of amenity. The ‘refuse revolution’ was a work in progress.

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