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.

Sample questions

The following are some interesting questions that can be answered by reading this timeline:

  • What are some important policies of historic value released by authorities throughout history?
    • Sort the full timeline by "Event type" and look for the group of rows with value "Policy".
    • You will see early policies related to waste management, first involving solid waste and evolving later to include air pollution.
    • You will also see different policies released by several countries across the world.

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 Type of waste Event type Details
3000 BC Solid waste 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 Solid waste 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 Solid waste Policy Britain makes a law mandating clean front yards. However, the law is not taken too seriously.[3] United Kingdom
1357 Solid waste Policy The city authorities of London forbid throwing rubbish, earth, gravel or dung into the Thames.[3] United Kingdom
1407 Solid waste Policy Britain passes a law declaring waste should be stored inside till rakers to remove it.[3] United Kingdom
1551 Paper waste 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 Carrion, biological waste Policy Every city in England is required to have an official scavenger.[1] United Kingdom
1751 General 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 General 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 General Service A proper waste collection service is first instigated in the Cape Colony.[3] South Africa
1842 General 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 General Organization (for-profit) Veolia is founded in France. It operates water management, waste management and energy services.[13][14] France
1855 Plastic waste Background The first human–made plastic is invented.[3] A year layer, the plastic material is patented by Alexander Parkes, in Birmingham, England.[15] United Kingdom
1869 Plastic waste Background American John Hyatt starts producing "celluloid", thus giving birth to the plastics industry.[10] United States
1874 General 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 Solid waste Facility The first incinerator is built in Nottingham by Manlove, Alliott & Co. Ltd..[16] This would mark a significant development in solid-waste treatment and disposal practices in the country.[1] United Kingdom
1884 Solid waste 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."[17][9] France
1885 Solid waste Facility A waste incinerator is built in Governors Island, New York.[3] United States
1895 General System New York City becomes the first U.S. city with public-sector garbage management.[18] United States
1896 General Organization Cory Environmental is founded in England. It provides services in the collection, recycling and disposal of waste.[19][20] United Kingdom
1898 General Organization (non-profit) The Chartered Institution of Wastes Management is founded. It is a professional body for the waste management industry in the United Kingdom and other countries.[21] United Kingdom
1907 Plastic waste Background Bakelite is invented as the first synthetic plastic.[22] "The first synthetic plastic — Bakelite — was produced in 1907, marking the beginning of the global plastics industry."[5]
1912 General Organization (for-profit) British waste management Biffa is founded.[23][24][25] United Kingdom
1916 General Technology Cities in the United States begin switching from horse–drawn to motorized waste collection equipment.[3] United States
1920s Solid waste Technology A dumping lever mechanism is introduced for garbage removal trucks.[26] United Kingdom
1920s General Infrastructure Using wetlands for disposal of waste becomes popular in the United States.[3] United States
1920s Solid waste Technology Mechanical transport for solid waste management is introduced in South Africa.[3] South Africa
1930 Solid waste Policy The king of Patiala in India converts cars into garbage vehicles.[3] India
1934 General Policy The United States supreme court bans municipal waste dumping into oceans.[3] United States
1934 General Organization (for-profit) German Recycling and waste management company Remondis is founded.[27] Germany
1935 Scrap Background The can of bear is first commercialized.[10] United States
1937 Solid waste 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.[28][29] United States
1938 Solid waste Technology The Garwood Load Packer becomes the first truck to incorporate a hydraulic compactor.[30] "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 Solid waste Waste sorting 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.[30] 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 Organization Keep America Beautiful is formed in New York City with the purpose to bring public and private sectors together to develop and promote a national cleanliness ethic.[31][32][33] 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 Organization Waste management company Covanta Energy is founded.[34][35] United States
1960s Technology The first patents for residential garbage compactors are filed in the United States.[36] 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.[37] Sweden
1961 Technology The first vacuum waste system in the world is installed at Sollefteå Hospital in Sollefteå, Sweden.[38] Sweden
1962 General Organization (non-profit) The United States National Waste & Recycling Association is founded.[39][40][41] United States
1965 Technology The first vacuum system for household waste is installed in the new residential district of Ör-Hallonbergen, Sweden.[38] Sweden
1968 Organization (for-profit) American company Waste Management is founded.[42][43] United States
1968 Organization (for-profit) American waste management company Browning-Ferris Industries is founded. It would go bankrupt in 1999.[44] United States
1970 Organization (non-profit) The International Solid Waste Association is founded. It is a global association, "working in the public interest and is the only worldwide association promoting sustainable, comprehensive and professional waste management".[45][46][47]
1970 Organization (for-profit) American company Waste Industries is founded. It provides non-hazardous solid waste and recycling collection, transfer, and disposal.[48] 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.[49] 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.[50]
1975 Organization (for-profit) Australian waste management company Cleanaway is founded.[51][52] Australia
1975 Organization (for-profit) American waste management company Casella Waste Systems is founded.[53][54] 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.[55][56] United States
1976 Organization Canadian waste-to-energy technology and engineering services company Himark BioGas is founded.[57] Canada
1977 Organization (non-profit) American environmental advocacy organization Californians Against Waste is founded.[58][59] United States
1980 Organization (for-profit) Clean Harbors is founded. It provides hazardous waste disposal for companies.[60][61] United States
1988 Organization (for-profit) Allied Waste Industries is founded. Its major business is waste collection and recycling.[62] United States
1989 (March 22) Policy 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 (non-profit) Non-profit Australian environmental conservation organization Clean Up Australia is founded.[63] Australia
1990 Statistics Global municipal solid waste touches 1.3 billion metric tons.[3]
1990 Organization (for-profit) South African waste management company SA Waste Holdings is founded.[64] South Africa
1991 Electronic waste Program launch The first electronic waste recycling system in Switzerland is implemented, beginning with collection of old refrigerators. Over the years, all other electric and electronic devices would be gradually added to the system.[65] 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 (for-profit) British waste management and recycling company Environmental Waste Controls is founded.[66] United Kingdom
1996 Organization (for-profit) Bangladeshi waste management and recycling company Waste Concern is founded.[67][68] 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 Organization (for-profit) American integrated waste services company Waste Connections is founded.[69] United States
1998 Organization (for-profit) American waste management company Republic Services is founded.[70] 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.[56] 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.[71] Japan
2000 Organization The Waste & Resources Action Programme launches as a British charity. It works with businesses, individuals and communities to achieve a circular economy.[72] United Kingdom
2000 Organization American solid waste collection company Advanced Disposal Services is founded.[73] 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 Canadian waste management company Waste Services Inc. is founded.[74] Canada
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 The International Waste Working Group – IWWG is established "to serve as a forum for the scientific and professional community and to respond to a need for the international promotion and dissemination of new developments in the waste management industry."[75]
2003 Electronic waste Policy Under the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (WEEE Directive, 2002/96/EC), the European Union implements a system symilar to the electronic waste recycling system implemented in 1991 in Switzerland.[76] The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive is put in effect as a European Community Directive 2002/96/EC on waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE). Its principal purposes are to prevent WEEE generation and, in addition, to improve the reuse, recycling, and recovery, in place of disposal, to reduce the environmental and health impacts of WEEE.[77][78] European Union
2004 Research Study conducted at the University of Arizona indicates that 14 to 15% of United States edible food is untouched or unopened, amounting to US$43 billion worth of discarded, but edible, food.[79] United States
2006 Electronic waste 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 Food waste Campaign Love Food, Hate Waste launches. It is the first major campaign to tackle food waste.[80] United Kingdom
2007 Policy San Francisco becomes the first city in the United States to prohibit the distribution of plastic bags by grocery stores.[56] United States
2008 Waste sorting French company Pellenc ST develops MIR (mid infrared) waste sorting technology, as a more efficient way to separate paper and cardboard.[81] France
2008 Solid waste Statistics 389 million tons of municipal solid waste are generated in the United States during the year.[82] United States
2008 General Policy The Waste Minimisation Act 2008 is passed in New Zealand. It encourages a reduction in the amount of waste consumers generate and dispose of in New Zealand and aims to lessen the environmental harm of waste.[83] New Zealand
2008 Suez Environnement[84][85][86] 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. [87] Due to this movement, Denmark would achieve a national reduction in food waste by 25% in 5 years (2010–2015).[88][89][90][91][92][93] 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.[94] 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.[95] South Africa
2009 Organization Online free group Freegle launches with aims to increase reuse and reduce landfill by offering a free Internet-based service where people can give away and ask for things that would otherwise be thrown away.[96] United Kingdom
2010 Program launch Miniwaste launches as an European project with the purpose to reduce the amount of organic waste from households in a manageable and sustainable way.[97]
2010 Statistics Coastal plastic waste generated within 50 kilometers of the coastline amounts to 99.5 million tons.[5] Worldwide
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 tons per year.[98]
2011 Policy The government of Zanzibar prohibits the use of plastic bags.[99] Tanzania
2012 Program launch The European Week for Waste Reduction launches as a 3-year project supported by the LIFE+ Programme of the European Commission until July 2012.[100][101][102]
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.[103]
2013 Biodegradable waste Organization The Composting Association is founded as a trade organization for the biodegradable waste management industry in the United Kingdom.[104] United Kingdom
2014 Statistics In the United States, an average person throws away approximately 80 pounds of used clothing per person per year. On average it costs cities US$45 per ton to dispose of old clothing.[105] United States
2014 Food waste 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.[106] United States
2014 Plastic waste 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%.[99]
2015 Plastic waste Policy The first state-wide ban on plastic bags in grocery and convenience stores is enacted in California.[56] United States
2015 Plastic waste Statistics An estimated 55 percent of global plastic waste is discarded in the year, 25 percent is incinerated, and 20 percent is recycled.[5]
2016 General Program launch The Government of India launches a web application to track the status of various kinds of wastes generated in the country.[107] India
2016 Plastic waste 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.[56] Japan
2016 Electronic waste Statistics Yearly worldwide accumulation of e-waste reaches 49.3 million tons.[108]
2017 Electronic waste Study Research team at Stanford University develops a flexible and biodegradable semiconductor that could help drastically decrease electronic waste in the future.[56] United states
2017 Electronic waste Statistics Almost 50 million tons of electronic waste are thrown out, a 20% increase from 2015.[56]
2018 Solid waste Facility A waste-to-energy plant is built in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. It is Africa’s first energy plant that converts trash into electricity.[109][110] Ethiopia
2018 General Policy The Chinese National Sword comes into effect in February to ban imports of 24 types of waste material and set a tougher standard for contamination levels in others. Many scrap materials are banned and others are not accepted unless they meet an extremely strict contamination rate of 0.5 percent. This policy would be regarded by many as a “catastrophe” that will have a “devastating impact” on global recycling.[111][112] China
2020 Electronic waste Statistics The amount of worldwide e-waste generation is expected to exceed 50 million tons by this year, with an annual growth between 4% and 5%.[113]
2021 Electronic waste Statistics The United Nations University predicts that yearly worldwide accumulation of e-waste would reach 57.5 million tons by this year.[108]
2025 General Statistics 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.[114]

Meta information on the timeline

How the timeline was built

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

Funding information for this timeline is available.

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See also


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