The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson is a top read. It's about the doctor and vicar who solved the mystery of the cause of cholera in Soho in the 1850s. The book opens with descriptions of how the booming population of Victorian London struggled to process the waste it produced without the modern infrastructures that allow for that kind of thing. I won't go into detail, but Johnson does and it's both disgusting and riveting.
"It is August 1854, and London is a city of scavengers... bone-pickers, rag-gatherers, pure-finders, dredgermen, mud-larks, sewer-hunters, dustmen, night-soil men, bunters, toshers, shoremen."Today for the most part in London we don't have whole professions devoted to sifting through waste in order to salvage the useful bits. We do however have clever people like my friend Amy, who rescued a washing machine drum and turned it into a side table. Love the hole-punched pattern, the storage compartment, the 1950s chrome finish. If we whacked this into Heal's I wonder how much we'd get?