Allthough no one was expecting it, it was in the late 10s that the human space age found its second wind, and the foundations of space-colonisation were created. And it was none other than China that kicked it all off.
Not content with creating new islands in the sea, China decided to apply the same principal to create "islands" in space. Since flying up all the materials needed to make a space station was prohibitively expensive, the chinese sent out just two rockts, both laden with a few pieces of specfific machinery, as well as robots. The robots would then aggregate the space trash around them, much like boats would dredge up sand, to lay the foundations of what was to become the first chinese space colony.
Of course, several other countries complained that the space trash belonged to everybody, and that China had no right to dispose of it at its leisure. But it soon turned out that China's recycling of old satellites and rocket parts was making the orbit a much safer place to work, and it wasn't long before other countries joined the trend.
Since then, construction of space stations and human settlments has improved by leaps and bounds, and has become all the rage in OECD countries. And, after hacing cleaned up the trash, man is once again looking toward the stars.