Timeline of recycling

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This is a timeline of recycling.

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Time period Development summary
Ancient times As early as 400 BC, people are known to recycle. Archaeological evidence indicates that glass is recycled in the ancient city of Sagalassos, (Turkey), during the imperial Byzantine times.[1] Early Romans are also found to recycle bronze coins into statues that could be sold at a higher monetary value than the original coins.[2] Bronze scrap recovery systems are developed in Europe
18th Century Industrial revolution. It becomes easier and cheaper to produce goods, it is also easier and sometimes cheaper to throw used items away.[2]
19th Century Scrap metal is purchased by sold by railroads.[3] "Dustmen" collect ash from coal fires, in order to use it as soil conditioner and for brick–making. The practice is still alive today.[4]
20th Century In the 1930s, many people survive the Great Depression by peddling scraps of metal, rags and other items.[5] Goods such as nylon, rubber and many metals are rationed and recycled during World War II.[5]. Further in the 1940s ad 1950s, recycling becomes less important as landfilling becomes a cheap way to dispose trash. The 1960s see the rise of the environmental movement, which provoques public awareness and rises environmental consciousness. In the 1970s, a strong worldwide growth in support for energy conservation is triggered partly by the energy shortages and rising prices resulting from the emergence of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC),[6] thus recycling becomes more popular again and drop-off recycling centers are established.[2] In the 1980s, major cities in the United States begin establishing curbside collection programs for plastics and other recyclables.[7] In the 1990s, municipal recycling programs are established throughout the United States and Europe.[8] Extended producer responsibility programs merge worldwide.

Full timeline

Year Category Event Geographical location
3300 BC–1200 BC Bronze scrap recovery systems are developed in Europe during the European Bronze Age.[4] Europe
2000 BC Composting/Recycling methods, as well as recycling bronze for later use, are developed in China.[9] China
1031 The first ever recorded reuse of waste paper begins in Japan. Documents and paper are recycled and re-pulped into new paper then sold in local Staples across the country.[5] Japan
1500s Spanish copper mines use scrap iron for cementation of copper. This recycling practice survives to this day.[4]
1690 The recycled paper manufacturing process is introduced when Rittenhouse Mill, Philadelphia starts manufacturing paper from waste paper and rags.[10][9][5] United States
1776 The first metal recycling is produced in the United States when patriots in New York City manage to melt down a statue of King George III and make into 42,088 bullets.[3][10] United States
1813 Technology Benjamin Law develops the process of turning rags into "shoddy" and "mungo" wool, through a process of combining fibres with virgin wool.[4] United Kingdom
1865 Organization The Salvation Army is founded in London, and begins collecting, sorting and recycling unwanted goods. The Household Salvage Brigades employ the unskilled poor to recover discarded materials. In the 1990s, the organization and its program would migrate to the United States.[11][5] United Kingdom
1884 An official recycling system for bottles with refundable deposits is established in Sweden.[3] Sweden
1897 Facility A materials recovery facility is buit in New York City, where trash is sorted at “picking yards” and separated into various grades of paper, metals, and carpet. Burlap bags, twine, rubber and even horse hair are also sorted for recycling and reuse.[5] United States
1904 Facility The first large–scale aluminum recyclers are operated in the metalworks of Chicago.[8] United States
1916–1918 Organization Due to massive shortages of raw materials during World War I, the United States Federal government creates the Waste Reclamation Service with the motto “Don’t Waste Waste – Save It.”.[5] United States
1955 (1 August) Publication Life magazine offers a two-page article on “Throwaway Living”, selling to consumers the idea that single-use items are a necessity of the modern lifestyle. Ease and convenience would soon become the two most desirable qualities in product marketing, inevitably leading to parks, forests and highways becoming littered with garbage.[5] United States
1962 Publication Rachel Carson publishes Silent Spring, warning that, when you throw something away, it doesn't really go away.[12] United States
1964 Product The aluminum beverage can is introduced and quickly becomes an industry standard.[8]
1965–1970 Symbol American designer Gary Anderson introduces the symbol for Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, inspired in the Möbius strip.[13][5] United States
1968 The aluminum industry begins aluminum recycling.[12]
1970 (April 22) Earth Day is founded in the United States by Senator Gaylord Nelson and globally by entrepreneur John McConnell.[5]
1971 Policy The Oregon Bottle Bill is passed as a container-deposit legislation in Oregon, requiring cans, bottles, and other containers sold in Oregon to be returnable with a minimum refund value.[14] United States
1972 Facility The first recycling mill is built in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania.[7][5] United States
1974 Program University City, Missouri starts offering curbside recycling to its residents.[5] United States
1974 Program The first multi–material curbside recycling program is launched in Canada.[6] Canada
1977 Organization Zero Waste Systems Inc. (ZWS) is founded in Oakland, California, bringing with its name the term zero waste. United States
1981 Policy Woodbury, New Jersey becomes the first city in the United States to mandate recycling.[15][4] United States
1983 Program The blue box recycling system (BBRS) is launched in Canada, initially as a waste management system used by Canadian municipalities to collect source separating household waste materials for the purpose of recycling. The first full-scale community wide BBRS is implemented in the City of Kitchener, Ontario. Today, the blue box system and variations of it remain in place in hundreds of cities around the world.[6] Canada
1984 Statistics Plastics recycling tops 100 million pounds in the United States for the first time in the history of plastics recycling.[7] United States
1985–1989 Program Rose Rowan starts the first kerbside collection service for recyclables.[13]
1986 Policy Rhode Island becomes the first U.S. state to mandate recycling, including some plastic bottles and containers.[7] United States
1988 Statistics The number of curbside recycling programs in the United States increases to about 1,050.[5] United States
1990 Policy McDonald’s announces phasing out use of Styrofoam containers. The 20th-anniversary theme for Earth Day is recycling.[16] United States
1990 Program The concept of Extended producer responsibility (EPR) is first formally introduced by Thomas Lindhqvist in a report to the Swedish Ministry of the Environment. EPR is defined as an environmental protection strategy that makes the manufacturer of the appliance responsible for its entire life cycle and especially for the “take-back”, recycling and final disposal of the product.[17] Sweden
1990 Coca-Cola begins blending recycled plastics into its beverage bottles.[7]
1991–2011 Policy More than 70 Extended producer responsibility (EPR) laws are enacted in the United States, generally requiring manufacturers to implement EPR programs, though without specifying recycling targets.[18] United States
1991 Policy Extended producer responsibility (EPR) is adopted in Germany, after the German Packaging Ordinance is passed, extending to producers the responsibility for their products and packaging, beyond production and delivery through to the entire life cycle. Since the adoption, until 1998, the per capita consumption of packaging is reduced from 94.7 kg to 82 kg, resulting in a reduction of 13.4%.[19][20][5] Germany
1991 Organization The Salvation Army Trading Company Ltd (SATCoL) is established, in order to create jobs and benefit the environment through recycling.[11]
1992 Policy The number of curbside programs in the United States reaches four thousand, up from just six hundred in 1989. With the rise of curbside recycling, industries abandon many of their buy–back programs and begin to rely largely on municipal services that require them to pay no extra fees.[21] United States
1995 Statistics A record 47.6 billion soft drink containers are recycled in the United States, an increase of 500 million over the previous year. Aluminum cans are recycled at a rate of 63% in the country, with the highest state-wide rate in California at 80%.[5]
1995 Organization The Packaging Recovery Organisation Europe is founded as the umbrella organization of 31 national producer responsibility systems engaged in the selective collection and recycling of packaging waste.[22] United States
1996 Statistics Recycling in the United States is rated at 25%, with the United States Environmental Protection Agency setting a new goal of 35%.[5] United States
1996 Technology Norwegian companies Elopak and SINTEF team up to sell the first infra-red sorting machine.[5] Germany
1998 Policy Extended producer responsibility (EPR) is adopted in Taiwan for electrical and electronic equipment, requiring producers to take back and recycle products such as televisions, refrigerators, washing machines, air–conditioners and computers, regardless of where they are sold.[19] Taiwan
1998 Policy Extended producer responsibility programs (EPR) start being adopted in Switzerland.[23] Switzerland
1999 Policy Extended producer responsibility programs start adoption in Denmark, the Netherlands and Norway. Denmark, Netherlands, Norway
2000 Study The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) confirms a link between global warming and waste, showing that reducing garbage and recycling cuts down greenhouse gas emissions.[5]
2000 Organization The European Recovered Paper Council (ERPC) is set up as an industry self-initiative with the purpose of monitoring progress towards meeting the paper recycling targets set out in the European Declaration on Paper Recycling, which is published the same year.
2001 Policy The Home Appliance Recycling Law comes into force in Japan, thus making recycling of waste electrics a legal requirement under the Specific Household Appliance Recycling Law and the Law for Promotion of Effective Utilization Resources. Consumers are required to pay a combined fee for retailers to take back discarded air–conditioners, televisions, refrigerators and washing machines and for producers to recycle them.[19][24] Japan
2001 Policy Extended producer responsibility programs start adoption in Belgium and Sweden. Belgium, Sweden
2001 Policy Extended producer responsibility (EPR) is adopted in Japan with three basic laws setting the legal structure, establishing the 3R (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle), also mandating recycling fees which include consumers.[25] Japan
2003 Policy The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (WEEE) is passed into European Law. It sets collection, recycling and recovery targets for all types of electrical goods.
2003 Policy The California Electronic Waste Recycling Act is signed, establishing a new program for consumers to return, recycle, and ensure the safe and environmentally sound disposal of video display devices, such as televisions and computer monitors, that are hazardous wastes when discarded.[26] United States
2007 Policy Five U.S. states pass laws requiring that unwanted electronics be recycled.[5] United States
2009 Publication American professor Carl A. Zimring publishes Cash for your trash, one of the first specialized studies about scrap recycling in the United States.[27] United States
2012 Statistics More than 585 million pounds of consumer electronics are recycled. This is an increase of 125 million pounds (more than 25%) over 2011.[5]

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The initial version of the timeline was written by User:Sebastian.

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See also


  1. "A geochemical study of Roman to early Byzantine Glass from Sagalassos, South-west Turkey". academia.edu. Retrieved 15 August 2017. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 "History of Recycling". all-recycling-facts.com. Retrieved 15 August 2017. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 "Scrap Recycling – recognized as one of the world's first green industries…". gachman.com. Retrieved 15 August 2017. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 Nongpluh, Yoofisaca Syngkon; Noronha, Guy C. Know all about: reduce, reuse, recycle. Retrieved 17 August 2017. 
  5. 5.00 5.01 5.02 5.03 5.04 5.05 5.06 5.07 5.08 5.09 5.10 5.11 5.12 5.13 5.14 5.15 5.16 5.17 5.18 5.19 Bradbury, Matt. "A Brief Timeline of the History of Recycling". buschsystems.com. Retrieved 15 August 2017. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Paehlke, Robert. Conservation and Environmentalism: An Encyclopedia. Retrieved 17 August 2017. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 "The History of Plastics Recycling". plasticsmakeitpossible.com. Retrieved 17 August 2017. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Encyclopedia of Consumption and Waste: The Social Science of Garbage (Carl A. Zimring, William L. Rathje ed.). Retrieved 17 August 2017. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 "History of the Garbage Man". garbagemanday.org. Retrieved 14 August 2017. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 Chandrappa, Ramesha; Bhusan Das, Diganta. Solid Waste Management: Principles and Practice. Retrieved 12 August 2017. 
  11. 11.0 11.1 "Exciting Plans Revealed for Salvation Army Shop at Boundless 2015". salvationarmy.org. Retrieved 17 August 2017. 
  12. 12.0 12.1 Plastics in Food Packaging Conference. Plastics Instit. 
  13. 13.0 13.1 "Recycling". weebly.com. Retrieved 16 August 2017. 
  14. "Oregon's Bottle Bill". Oregon Liquor Control Commission. Retrieved 17 August 2017. 
  15. Robinson, William D. The Solid Waste Handbook: A Practical Guide. Retrieved 17 August 2017. 
  16. "McDonald's Trials to Stop Using Styrofoam Cups". care2.com. Retrieved 16 August 2017. 
  17. Thomas Lindhqvist & Karl Lidgren, "Models for Extended Producer Responsibility," in Sweden, October 1990.
  18. Nash, Jennifer; Bosso, Christopher. "Extended Producer Responsibility in the United States". wiley.com. doi:10.1111/j.1530-9290.2012.00572.x. Retrieved 17 August 2017. 
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 Smith, Michael H.; Hargroves, Karlson; Desha, Cheryl. Cents and Sustainability: Securing Our Common Future by Decoupling Economic Growth from Environmental Pressures. 
  20. Hanisch, Carola. "Is Extended Producer Responsibility Effective?" Environmental Science & Technology 34.7 (2000): 170A-75A. Web.
  21. Elmore, Bartow J. Citizen Coke: The Making of Coca-Cola Capitalism. Retrieved 16 August 2017. 
  22. "PRO Europe Website.". pro-e.org. Retrieved 17 August 2017. 
  23. "A comparison of electronic waste recycling in Switzerland and in India". empa.ch. Retrieved 16 August 2017. 
  24. Buekens, A.; Yang, J. (2014). "Recycling of WEEE plastics: A review". The Journal of Material Cycles and Waste Management. 16 (3): 415–434. doi:10.1007/s10163-014-0241-2. 
  25. "Assessing Extended Producer Responsibility LAWS in JAPAN". acs.org. Retrieved 17 August 2017. 
  26. Electronic Hazardous Waste. (2010). Retrieved from Department of Toxic Substances Control website: http://www.dtsc.ca.gov/hazardouswaste/ewaste/
  27. "Zimring, Carl A. Cash for your trash : Scrap recycling in America" (PDF). scielo.br. Retrieved 16 August 2017.