Front Page Titles (by Subject) IV. Utilisation of the Excrements of Production. - Capital: A Critique of Political Economy. Volume III: The Process of Capitalist Production as a Whole
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IV. Utilisation of the Excrements of Production. - Karl Marx, Capital: A Critique of Political Economy. Volume III: The Process of Capitalist Production as a Whole 
Capital: A Critique of Political Economy. Volume III: The Process of Capitalist Production as a Whole, by Karl Marx. Ed. Federick Engels. Trans. from the 1st German edition by Ernest Untermann (Chicago: Charles H. Kerr and Co. Cooperative, 1909).
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IV. Utilisation of the Excrements of Production.
With the advance of capitalist production the utilisation of the excrements of production and consumption is extended. We mean by the former the refuse of industry and agriculture, and by the latter either the excrements, such as issue from the natural circulation of matter in the human body, or the form in which objects of consumption are left after being used. Excrements of production, for instance in chemical industries, are such by-products as are wasted in production on a smaller scale; iron filings collected in the manufacture of machinery and carried back into the production of iron as raw material, etc. Excrements of consumption are the natural discharges of human beings, remains of clothing in the form of rags, etc. The excrements of consumption have the most value for agriculture. So far as their utilisation is concerned, the capitalist mode of production wastes them in enormous quantities. In London, for instance, they find no better use for the excrements of four and a half million human beings than to contaminate the Thames with it at heavy expense.
The raising of the price of raw materials naturally leads to the utilisation of waste products.
The general requirements for the re-employment of these excrements are: A great quantity of such excrements, such as is only the result of production on a large scale; improvements in machinery by which substances formerly useless in their prevailing form are given another useful in reproduction; progress of science, especially of chemistry, which discovers the useful qualities of such waste. It is true, that great economies of this sort are also observed in small agriculture carried on like gardening, for instance in Lombardy, southern China, and Japan. But on the whole the productivity of agriculture under this system is obtained by great prodigality in human labor-power, which is drawn from other spheres of production.
The so-called waste plays an important role in almost every industry. The factory report for December, 1863, mentions as one of the principal reasons why farmers in many parts of England and Ireland do not like to grow flax, or do so but rarely, the great waste occurring in the preparation of flax by small scutch-mills driven by water. The waste is relatively small in cotton, but very considerable in flax. Good treatment in soaking and mechanical scutching may reduce this disadvantage considerably. In Ireland flax is frequently scutched in a very slovenly manner, so that from 28 to 30% are lost. All this might be avoided by the use of better machinery. So much tow fell by the side in the preparation of flax that the factory inspector reports having heard it said of some of the scutching mills in Ireland that the laborers carry the waste home and burn it in their fire-places, although it is very valuable. (Page 140 of the above report.) We shall speak of cotton later, in discussing the fluctuations of prices of raw materials.
The wool industry was carried on more intelligently than the preparation of flax. The same report states on page 107 that it was formerly the custom to veto the preparation of waste wool and woolen rags for renewed use, but this prejudice has been entirely dropped so far as the shoddy trade is concerned, which has become an important branch of the wool district of Yorkshire. It is doubtless expected that the trade with cotton waste will soon occupy the same rank as a line of business meeting a long felt want. Thirty years previous to 1863, woolen rags, that is to say pieces of all-wool cloth, etc., were worth on an average about 4 p.st. 4 sh. per ton. But a few years before 1863 they had become worth as much as 44 p.st. per ton. And the demand for them had risen to such an extent that mixed stuffs of wool and cotton were also used, means having been found to destroy the cotton without injuring the wool. And thousands of laborers were employed in 1863 in the manufacture of shoddy, and the consumer benefited thereby, being enabled to buy cloth of good quality at very reasonable prices. The shoddy so rejuvenated constituted in 1862 as much as one-third of the entire consumption of wool in English industry, according to the factory report of October, 1862, page 81. The truth about the "benefit" for the "consumer" is that his shoddy clothes wear out in one-third of the time which good woolen clothes used to last, and become threadbare in one-sixth of this time.
The English silk industry moved on the same inclined plane. From 1839 to 1862 the consumption of genuine raw silk had somewhat decreased, while that of silk waste had doubled. By the help of improved machinery it was possible to make this otherwise rather worthless stuff into a silk useful for many purposes.
The most striking instance of the utilisation of waste was furnished by the chemical industry. It utilises not only its own waste in new ways, but also that of many other industries. For instance it converts the formerly almost useless gas-tar into aniline colors, alizarin, and more recently even into drugs.
This economy through the re-employment of excrements of production must be distinguished from economies through the prevention of waste, that is to say, the reduction of excrements of production to a minimum and the maximum utilisation at first hand of all raw and auxiliary materials required in production.
The reduction of waste depends in part on the quality of the machinery in use. Oil, soap, etc., are saved to the extent that the parts of a machine are constructed accurately and polished. This refers to auxiliary materials. In part, however, and this is the most important part, it depends on the quality of the employed machines and tools whether a large or small portion of raw material is converted into waste in the process of production. Finally it depends on the quality of the raw material itself. This in turn is conditioned on the development of the extract industry and agriculture producing the raw material (the progress of civilisation strictly so called), and on the improvement of processes through which the raw materials pass before their entry into manufacture.
"Parmentier proved that the art of grinding grain was very materially improved in France in recent times, for instance since the time of Louis XIV, so that the new mills, compared to the old, can make as high as twice as much bread from the same amount of grain. In fact, the annual consumption of an inhabitant of Paris was at first placed at 4 setiers of grain, then at 3, finally at 2, while nowadays it is only 1½ setier, or about 342 lbs. per capita....In the Perche, in which I lived for a long time, the crude mills of granite and trap rock have been rebuilt according to the rules of advanced mechanics as understood for the last 30 years. They have been provided with good mill stones from La Ferté, the grain has been ground twice, the milling sack has been given a circular motion, and the output of flour has increased by one-sixth for the same amount of grain. I can easily explain the enormous discrepancy between the daily consumption of grain among the Romans and among us. It is due simply to the imperfect method of milling and bread making. In this connection I must explain a peculiar fact mentioned by Pliny, XVIII, c. 20, 2:...'The flour was sold in Rome, according to quality, at 40, 48, or 96 as per modius.' These prices, so high in proportion to the contemporaneous prices of grain, are due to the imperfect state of the mills of that period, and the resulting heavy cost of milling." (Dureau de la Malle, Economie Politique des Romains. Paris, 1840, I, page 280.)