Vol. 6 No. 1 (2023)

Waste for the Soviet Economy: Recycling of Rags in Ukraine in the 1920s

Tetiana Perga
State Institution ‘Institute of World History of National Academy of Science of Ukraine’

Published 2023-09-07



  • rags,
  • waste,
  • recycling,
  • Ukrainian SSR,
  • Soviet Union

How to Cite

Perga, T. (2023). Waste for the Soviet Economy: Recycling of Rags in Ukraine in the 1920s. Worldwide Waste, 6(1), 4. https://doi.org/10.5334/wwwj.97


This article, based on previously unexplored archival documents, examines the recycling of rags in the early Soviet Union, using the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR) as a case study. Within the context of the early Soviet waste regime, the characteristics of the Ukrainian rag market, its key participants, the challenges they encountered, and the strategies they devised in a republic with limited textile waste are investigated.

The article asserts that in the Ukrainian SSR during the 1920s, the paper industry emerged as the primary consumer of rags. Consequently, the secondary utilization of rags in this sector should be regarded as the authorities’ endeavor to extensively utilize substitutes in light of the limited reserves of cellulose and timber in the republic. Rags were also an important export resource, driven more by ideological reasons than purely economic ones. The article demonstrates the specificities of waste management policies during the New Economic Policy period, characterized by the authorities’ directive methods of regulating the market, attributable to the strategic significance of this type of raw material for Soviet enterprises. It contends that the transition to a centralized waste collection model in the early 1930s was a natural outcome of the implementation of the planned economy. However, intense competition for various waste materials, particularly rags, contributed to this transition.