Abstract: Money as Industrial Waste: The Business of Recycling Greenbacks at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, 1870s-1970s

Franklin Noll


From its early days, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing was conscious of the environmental impact and waste resulting from its operations, especially when it came to dealing with scrap currency paper and notes redeemed by the Treasury. As a result, the BEP continually tried to minimize waste by reducing scrap, reusing old notes, and recycling paper by turning it into pulp that could be sold on the open market. Looking at the first hundred years of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing's handling of waste currency paper, it is evident that the BEP basically followed the now popular maxim, "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle." The BEP always sought to reduce the amount of currency paper wasted by minimizing spoilage in production through the use of technology. The BEP also invented a way to reuse currency paper through its process of physically laundering old money that allowed its reissue. Finally, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing continually tried to find ways to recycle currency paper into a marketable product that could be used again.