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Venture capitalists have always thought one person's trash is another person's treasure—theirs. For at least a decade, investors poured money into technologies to turn garbage into electricity by burning it. That proved profitable enough. But in the last five years, the economics have changed. Reclaiming materials has become increasingly profitable as falling energy costs coincided with rising commodity prices. Recycled sources of metal, plastics, glass, and other materials are now more economical...

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