The History Of Recycling

Recycling is the method of reprocessing and reusing waste items and materials.  Recycling prevents the waste of useful materials.  It reduces consumption of raw materials, conserves energy and decreases air, water and soil pollution.  Recycling helps preserve our precious natural resources and helps save our environment. 

Types of recyclable materials include paper, glass, aluminum, plastic, metal, textiles, building materials, unwanted electronic equipment, and much more.

The process of recycling has been practiced by many societies for many years.  Artifacts and archeological studies have indicated that as early as 400 BC ancient waste dumps collected less household waste during periods when there was a reported scarcity of resources.  The lack of these households wastes in ancient dumpsites indicates that because of the scarcity of new materials the waste materials were being recycled.

During the pre-industrial age there was clear evidence of the collection of scrap metals such as bronze, iron and steel in Europe.  These scrap items were often melted down and formed into new products.

The earliest evidence of paper recycling was in Japan where shops sold re-pulped paper as early as 1031.

In medieval England people collected ash and dust from wood and coal fires to be used as base material for brick making.  It was an economic advantage to use waste products for making recycled feedstock instead of using new raw materials.  The absence of public waste removal and disposal systems made recycling a necessary part of life during these times.

The outbreak of two major world wars in the early 20th century brought crippling shortages of precious natural resources.  These major world changing occurrences forced governments to encourage recycling.  Most of the raw materials were needed for the war effort.  Therefore, citizens were urged to conserve raw materials such as wood, paper, textiles, and fiber.  Citizens even donated metals and precious jewelry to the war efforts.  During these times governments and private business organized strict resource conservation programs.  Some of these programs continued even after the war ended.

Recycling was still being practiced after World War II ended.  During the 1970s rising energy costs and the oil embargo forced companies and governments to heavily invest in recycling initiatives.  The practice of placing a recycling trailer behind the back of a waste management vehicle allowed for the easy collection of garbage and recyclable materials in most US cities.

The economic boom of the post war years eroded the ideals of conservation and the wise use of resources from the consciousness of most people in the developed nations.  However, the growth of the environmental movement, and the celebration of the first Earth Day in 1970, put conservation and recycling back in the mainstream.

While recycling has not yet been fully accepted by everyone, recent figures suggest that public acceptance and the market for recycled products has significantly increased.  Today most cities and towns have regulations and laws regarding the collecting and handling of recyclable material and these laws and regulations are enforced.

One of the other major reasons for the increased popularity of recycling is the need for reducing the amount of waste sent to landfills.  The recycling initiative has already diverted 32 percent or 60 million tons of waste from our landfills.