Timeline of waste management

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This is a timeline of waste management, focusing mainly on municipal solid waste and commercial waste. Human waste is treated on the timeline of sanitation. Radioactive waste is not covered on this timeline. Recycling is covered on the timeline of recycling. Rise of common items in waste, such as beverage cans, plastics, and paper, are described.

Big picture

Time period Development summary
Middle Ages After the fall of Rome, waste collection and municipal sanitation begins a decline that would last throughout this era.[1]
18th – 19th centuries Industrial revolution flourishes. Industrialization along sustained urban growth in Western Europe causes a rapid deterioration in levels of sanitation and the general quality of urban life.[2] Late in the 19th century, a technological approach to solid-waste management begins to develop.[1]
20th century Municipal systems of waste disposal spring up at the turn of the century in large cities of Europe and North America. Technological advances continue during the first half of the century. Garbage grinders, compaction trucks, and pneumatic collection systems develop.[1]
1930s The Dumpster is introduced in the United States.
1940s Disposal of packaging material increases by 67% after World War II as consumerism and obsolescence become entrenched in emerging developed countries.[3]
1950s Dempster develops as a refuse handling system.[4] Rapid growth in global plastic production begins.[5]
1960s The first garbage bags meant for usage at homes appear during the decade.[6] Also, the first automated vacuum collection system is created in Sweden.[7]
1970s Smaller dumpsters are introduced, often known as wheelie bins which are also emptied mechanically. In the mid-1970s Petersen Industries introduce the first grapple truck for municipal waste collection.
1990s Garbage trucks technology changes dramatically.[8] Societies start wasting food more than ever in the developed world.[3]

Visual data

Municipal waste landfilled, incinerated, recycled and composted in the European Union. In milions of tons.
Municipal waste landfilled, incinerated, recycled and composted in the European Union. In kg per capita.

Full timeline

Year Waste type Event type Details
3000 BC A landfill is developed in Knossos, Crete, with large holes dug for refuse. Garbage is dumped and filled with dirt at various levels.[8] Greece
2100 BC System The elite section in the city of Heraclopolis maintains a waste collection and disposal system.[3] Egypt
500 BC Policy A municipal dump is organized in Athens. Regulations require waste to be dumped at least a mile from the city limits.[3][9] Greece
1350 Policy Britain makes a law mandating clean front yards. However, the law is not taken too seriously.[3] United Kingdom
1357 Policy The city authorities of London forbid throwing rubbish, earth, gravel or dung into the Thames.[3] United Kingdom
1407 Policy Britain passes a law declaring waste should be stored inside till rakers to remove it.[3] United Kingdom
1551 German papermaker Andreas Bernhart begins placing his paper in wrappers labeled with his name and address. This is the first recorded use of packaging.[10] Germany
1714 Policy Every city in England is required to have an official scavenger.[1] United Kingdom
1751 English official Corbyn Morris in London proposes a uniform public management for cleaning the city in order to preserve the health of the people.[11] United Kingdom
1757 Service The first municipal street–cleaning service in the United States is started in Philadelphia by Benjamin Franklin. During the same time period, American homes begin digging solid waste pits instead of throwing it out of doors and windows.[3] United States
1786 Service A proper waste collection service is first instigated in the Cape Colony.[3] South Africa
1842 Publication British Social reformer, Edwin Chadwick publishes report The Sanitary Condition of the Labouring Population in which he argues for the importance of adequate waste removal and management facilities to improve the health and wellbeing of the city's population.[12] United Kingdom
1853 Veolia[13][14] France
1855 Background The first human–made plastic is invented.[3]
1869 Background American John Hyatt starts producing "celluloid", thus giving birth to the plastics industry.[10] United States
1874 Publication Edwin Chadwick writes his Report of an Inquiry into the Sanitary Condition of the Labouring Population of Great Britain, linking disease to filthy environmental conditions.[3]
1874 Facility The first incinerator is built in Nottingham by Manlove, Alliott & Co. Ltd..[15] This would mark a significant development in solid-waste treatment and disposal practices in the country.[1] United Kingdom
1884 System Eugène Poubelle introduces the first integrated kerbside collection and recycling system, requiring residents to separate their waste into perishable items, paper and cloth, and crockery and shells. "He also established rules for how private collectors and city workers should cooperate and he developed standard dimensions for refuse containers: his name in France is now synonymous with the garbage can. Under Poubelle, food waste and other organics collected in Paris were transported to nearby Saint Ouen where they were composted. This continued well into the 20th century when plastics began to contaminate the waste stream."[16][9] France
1885 Facility A waste incinerator is built in Governors Island, New York.[3] United States
1895 System New York City becomes the first U.S. city with public-sector garbage management.[17] United States
1896 Cory Environmental[18][19] United Kingdom
1898 Organization Chartered Institution of Wastes Management[20] United Kingdom
1907 The plastic is invented.[21] "The first synthetic plastic — Bakelite — was produced in 1907, marking the beginning of the global plastics industry."[5]
1912 British waste management Biffa is founded.[22][23][24] United Kingdom
1916 Technology Cities in the United States begin switching from horse–drawn to motorized waste collection equipment.[3] United States
1920s Technology A dumping lever mechanism is introduced for garbage removal trucks.[25] United Kingdom
1920s Using wetlands for disposal of waste become popular in the United States.[3] United States
1920s Technology Mechanical transport for solid waste management is introduced in South Africa.[3] South Africa
1930 Policy The king of Patiala in India converts cars into garbage vehicles.[3] India
1934 Policy The United States supreme court bans municipal waste dumping into oceans.[3] United States
1934 German Recycling and waste management company Remondis is founded.[26] Germany
1935 Background The can of bear is first commercialized.[10] United States
1937 Technology American businessman George Dempster invents the Dempster-Dumpster system in which wheeled waste containers are mechanically tipped into the truck. His containers become known as Dumpsters, entering the word to the language.[27][28] United States
1938 Technology The Garwood Load Packer becomes the first truck to incorporate a hydraulic compactor.[29] "In 1938, the Garwood Load Packer revolutionized the industry when the notion of including a compactor in the truck was implemented. The first primitive compactor could double a truck's capacity. This was made possible by use of a hydraulic press which compacted the contents of the truck periodically."
1938 Background American phycisist Chester Carlson develops the Xerography process.[10] United States
1942 Technology Low density polyethylene is invented.[3]
1944 Background Dow Chemical Company develops styrophoam.[10] United States
1949 Statistics Over 2500 Garwood Load Packers are in use across the United States and Canada.[29] United States, Canada
1950 Technology Canadian inventor Harry Wasylyk from Winnipeg invents the first garbage bag.[6][3] Canada
1952 Technology American body builder Vincen Bowles, develops and sells a fixed-bucket front loader. The device would be subsequently modified to service detachable containers.[4] United States
1953 Keep America Beautiful[30][31][32] United States
1955 Technology The Dempster Dumpmaster is introduced as the first front loader.[4]
1956 Policy The Clean Air Act is passed in Britain, replacing solid fuel for heating house by with gas and electricity.[3] United Kingdom
1960 Covanta Energy[33][34] United States
1960s Technology The first patents for residential garbage compactors are filed in the United States.[35] United States
1960–1965 Technology The modern lightweight shopping bag is invented by Swedish engineer Sten Gustaf Thulin. This simple, strong bag with a high load carrying capacity is patented in 1965 by Celloplast, a producer of cellulose film based in Norrkoping.[36] Sweden
1961 Technology The first vacuum waste system in the world is installed at Sollefteå Hospital in Sollefteå, Sweden.[37] Sweden
1965 Technology The first vacuum system for household waste is installed in the new residential district of Ör-Hallonbergen, Sweden.[37] Sweden
1968 Waste Management [38][39] United States
1968 Browning-Ferris Industries[40] United States
1970 Organization The International Solid Waste Association is founded.[41][42][43]
1970 Organization Waste Industries[44] United States
1972 Organization The United Nations Conference on the Human Environment is held in Stockholm, Sweden. This event is considered to mark a turning point in waste management.[3] Sweden
1973 Study (discipline) Garbology, the study of modern refuse and trash as well as the use of trash cans, compactors and various types of trash can liners, is started as an academic discipline at the University of Arizona, originating from an idea of two students for a class project.[45] United States
1975 Policy The waste hierarchy concept is introduced for the first time as a waste policy by The European Union’s Waste Framework Directive, emphasizing the importance of waste minimization, and the protection of the environment and human health, as a priority. Following the this Directive, the European Union policy and legislation would further adapt to the principles of the waste hierarchy.[46]
1975 Australian waste management company Cleanaway is founded.[47][48] Australia
1975 American waste management company Casella Waste Systems is founded.[49][50] United States
1976 Policy The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act is enacted in the United States to close open dumps, create standards for landfills, incinerators and the disposal of hazardous waste. It is the principal federal law in the country governing the disposal of solid waste and hazardous waste.[51][52] United States
1976 Canadian waste-to-energy technology and engineering services company Himark BioGas is founded.[53] Canada
1977 Environmentalism Organization American environmental advocacy organization Californians Against Waste is founded.[54][55] United States
1980 Hazardous waste Organization Clean Harbors is founded. It provides hazardous waste disposal for companies.[56][57] United States
1988 Waste collection Organization Allied Waste Industries is founded. Its major business is waste collection and recycling.[58] United States
1989 (22 March) Organization The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal is adopted to stop movement of hazardous waste from one country to other country. 105 states sign the Final Act of the convention. [3] Switzerland
1989 Organization Clean Up Australia[59] Australia
1990 Statistics Global municipal solid waste touches 1.3 billion metric tons.[3]
1990 SA Waste Holdings South Africa
1991 "In Switzerland, the first electronic waste recycling system was implemented in 1991, beginning with collection of old refrigerators; over the years, all other electric and electronic devices were gradually added to the system. The established producer responsibility organization is SWICO, mainly handling information, communication, and organization technology."[60] The European Union implemented a similar system in February 2003, under the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (WEEE Directive, 2002/96/EC).[61] Switzerland
1992 (5 May) Policy The Basel Convention enters into force. Many countries pass legislations enlisting waste that cannot be imported into their territory.[3]
1993 Organization Environmental Waste Controls[62] United Kingdom
1996 Waste Concern[63][64] Bangladesh
1997 Technology Lee Rathbun introduces the Lightning Rear Steer System, which includes an elevated, rear-facing cab for both driving the truck and operating the loader. This configuration allows the operator to follow behind haul trucks and load continuously.
1997 Waste Connections United States
1998 Republic Services United States
2000 Statistics Over 5,000 cities in the United States use Pay as you throw programs, which charge residents based on amounts of garbage they throw away.[8] United States
2000 Study The United States Environmental Protection Agency confirms a link between global warming and waste, showing that reducing garbage and recycling cuts down greenhouse gas emissions.[52] United Sattes
2000 Policy The Waste-Management Law is promulgated in Japan, requiring 3R components (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle) measured in 10 industries and 69 product items, covering about 50% of the waste generated in the country.[65] Japan
2000 Waste & Resources Action Programme[66] United Kingdom
2000 Advanced Disposal Services United States
2001 Policy The Ecological Solid Waste Management Act is enacted by the Government of the Philippines, after collapse of dumpsite during the Payatas landslide resulted in over 200 deaths in 2000.[3] Philippines
2001 Organization TerraCycle United States
2001 Waste Services Inc.
2002 Statistics Total global solid waste touches nearly 12 billion tons, out of which 11 billion tons are from industrial wastes and 1.6 billion tons are municipal solid wastes.[3]
2002 Organization International Waste Working Group – IWWG
2003 Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive
2004 Study conducted at the University of Arizona indicates that 14 to 15% of United States edible food is untouched or unopened, amounting to $43 billion worth of discarded, but edible, food.[67]
2006 Statistics Electronic waste makes up 5% of the total solid waste stream.[1]
2007 Policy The Solid Waste Management (SWM) and Public Cleansing Act is enacted by the Government of Malaysia in order to federalize SWM and progress the nation to status of a developed country by 2020.[3] Malaysia
2007 Love Food, Hate Waste United Kingdom
2007 Policy San Francisco becomes the first city in the United States to prohibit the distribution of plastic bags by grocery stores."[52] United States
2008 Technology French company Pellenc ST develops MIR (mid infrared) waste sorting technology, as a more efficient way to separate paper and cardboard.[68] France
2008 Statistics 389 million tonnes of municipal solid waste are generated in the United States during the year.[69] United States
2008 Waste Minimisation Act 2008 New Zealand
2008 Suez Environnement[70][71][72] France
2008 Organization Stop Wasting Food (In Danish Stop Spild af Mad) is founded by Russo-Danish activist Selina Juul as a consumer organization that works for the reduction of food waste in society. [73] Due to this movement, Denmark would achieve a national reduction in food waste by 25% in 5 years (2010–2015).[74][75][76][77][78][79] Denmark
2009 Statistics Study estimates that from 20% to 40% of fruit and vegetables in the United Kingdom are rejected before they even reach retailers, as a result of high cosmetic standards.[80] United Kingdom
2009 Policy A broad waste management act is introduced in South Africa, empowering the environment minister to require EPR measures on a product–by–product basis.[81] South Africa
2009 Freegle[82] United Kingdom
2010 Program launch Miniwaste[83]
2010 "plastic waste generated in coastal regions is most at risk of entering the oceans; in 2010 coastal plastic waste – generated within 50 kilometres of the coastline – amounted to 99.5 million tonnes"[5]
2011 Technology A RESEM pyrolysis plant becomes operational in Texas, processing up to 60 tons per day. United States
2011 Study Study estimates the total of global food loss and waste to around one third of the edible parts of food produced for human consumption, amounting to about 1.3 billion tonnes per year.[84]
2011 Policy The government of Zanzibar prohibits the use of plastic bags.[85] Tanzania
2012 European Week for Waste Reduction[86][87]
2013 Publication Global initiative D-Waste publishes the first Waste Atlas Report. Through this report the concept of the Waste Atlas and its main features are presented to the public.[88]
2013 Organization Composting Association
2014 "More than 15 million tons of used textile waste is generated each year in the United States, and the amount has doubled over the last 20 years. In 2014, over 16 million tons of textile waste was generated, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Of this amount, 2.62 million tons were recycled, 3.14 million tons were combusted for energy recovery, and 10.46 million tons were sent to the landfill. An average American throws away approximately 80 pounds of used clothing per person per year. On average, nationally, it costs cities $45 per ton to dispose of old clothing. Synthetic clothing may take hundreds of years to decompose."[89] United States
2014 Statistics A National Geographic study indicates that more than 30% of the food in the United States, valued at $162 billion annually, isn't eaten.[90] United States
2014 Background The plastic global production reaches 300 million tons. 40% by weight of world production takes place in Asia. North America and Europe cover each 20%.[85]
2015 Policy The first state-wide ban on plastic bags in grocery and convenience stores is enacted in California.[52] United States
2015 "In 2015, an estimated 55 percent of global plastic waste was discarded, 25 percent was incinerated, and 20 percent recycled."[5]
2015 Organization Tyrelessly[91] India
2016 The Government of India launches a web application to track the status of various kinds of wastes generated in the country.[92] India
2016 Study Japanese scientists discover a species of bacteria called ideonella sakainesis that eats plastics commonly found in water bottles by an enzyme that turns the Polyethylene terephthalate to generate an intermediate chemical which is taken up by the cell, then broken down even further giving the bacteria carbon and energy to grow.[52] Japan
2016 " The United Nations University reported that in 2016, the yearly worldwide accumulation of e-waste had reached 49.3 million tons. By 2021 it’s predicted this number reaches 57.5 million tons."[93]
2016 "EPA released significant findings on the economic benefits of the recycling industry with an update to the national Recycling Economic Information (REI) Study in 2016. This study analyzes the numbers of jobs, wages and tax revenues attributed to recycling. The study found that in a single year, recycling and reuse activities in the United States accounted for:

757,000 jobs $36.6 billion in wages; and $6.7 billion in tax revenues. This equates to 1.57 jobs, $76,000 in wages, and $14,101 in tax revenues for every 1,000 tons of materials recycled."[94]

2017 Study Research team at Stanford University develops a flexible and biodegradable semiconductor that could help drastically decrease electronic waste in the future.[52] United states
2017 Statistics Almost 50 million tons of electronic waste are thrown out, a 20% increase from 2015.[52]
2018 Facility A waste-to-energy plant is built in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. It is Africa’s first energy plant that converts trash into electricity.[95][96] Ethiopia
2018 "So the Chinese National Sword, which came into effect in February 2018 to ban imports of 24 types of waste material and set a tougher standard for contamination levels in others, has been regarded by many as a “catastrophe” that will have a “devastating impact” on global recycling."[97] ". Since early 2018, China has banned many scrap materials and has not accepted others unless they meet an extremely strict contamination rate of 0.5 percent."[98] China
2020 "The amount of worldwide e-waste generation is expected to exceed 50 million tons by 2020, with an annual growth between 4% and 5%."[99]
2021 "These short lifespans cause a high amount of e-waste. The United Nations University reported that in 2016, the yearly worldwide accumulation of e-waste had reached 49.3 million tons. By 2021 it’s predicted this number reaches 57.5 million tons."[93]
2025 The global waste management market size is expected to reach US$484.9 billion from US$303.6 billion in 2017, rising at a CAGR of 6.0% from 2018 to 2025.[100]

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See also


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