In Chapter 2, I outlined four stories about waste or, rather, four ways in which waste has been imagined in key works of literature and poetry. Between the late nineteenth and the late twentieth century there have been four clearly different articulations of this rubbish imagination: waste as an elemental foundation of life, waste as a loss or defi ciency of life’s value, waste as a menacing threat to life, and waste as life’s ever-present and inevitable shadow. There are, of course, other ways of imagining waste. I am not claiming that these four imaginary constructions encompass the entire spectrum of modern society’s understandings but I think that they are particularly important because they map onto wider industrial and social changes. They refer to and make sense in terms of particular social contexts and societal relationships with waste. The imagination of waste does not exist in a social vacuum: it references what is done with waste, what roles it plays in social life, what values are extracted from or imputed to it and how those values are realised. In this chapter I will extend this line of inquiry by outlining some of the crucial services that waste has supplied to modern industry and the central role that waste has played, and continues to play, in technological development. I will show that without some kinds of waste the modern, scientifi c and technological world would never have emerged — or, at least, that it is impossible to imagine what it would look like had those wastes not been used in industrial development. The chapter will also reveal some features of the social contexts that gave rise to the four imaginary constructions of waste explored in Chapter 2.