Timeline of waste management
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.
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.
|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.|
|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. Late in the 19th century, a technological approach to solid-waste management begins to develop.|
|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.|
|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.|
|1950s||Dempster develops as a refuse handling system. Rapid growth in global plastic production begins.|
|1960s||The first garbage bags meant for usage at homes appear during the decade. Also, the first automated vacuum collection system is created in Sweden.|
|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. Societies start wasting food more than ever in the developed world.|
|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.||Greece|
|2100 BC||System||The elite section in the city of Heraclopolis maintains a waste collection and disposal system.||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.||Greece|
|1350||Solid waste||Policy||Britain makes a law mandating clean front yards. However, the law is not taken too seriously.||United Kingdom|
|1357||Solid waste||Policy||The city authorities of London forbid throwing rubbish, earth, gravel or dung into the Thames.||United Kingdom|
|1407||Solid waste||Policy||Britain passes a law declaring waste should be stored inside till rakers to remove it.||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.||Germany|
|1714||Carrion, biological waste||Policy||Every city in England is required to have an official scavenger.||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.||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.||United States|
|1786||General||Service||A proper waste collection service is first instigated in the Cape Colony.||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.||United Kingdom|
|1853||General||Organization (for-profit)||Veolia is founded in France. It operates water management, waste management and energy services.||France|
|1855||Plastic waste||Background||The first human–made plastic is invented. A year layer, the plastic material is patented by Alexander Parkes, in Birmingham, England.||United Kingdom|
|1869||Plastic waste||Background||American John Hyatt starts producing "celluloid", thus giving birth to the plastics industry.||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.|
|1874||Solid waste||Facility||The first incinerator is built in Nottingham by Manlove, Alliott & Co. Ltd.. This would mark a significant development in solid-waste treatment and disposal practices in the country.||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."||France|
|1885||Solid waste||Facility||A waste incinerator is built in Governors Island, New York.||United States|
|1895||General||System||New York City becomes the first U.S. city with public-sector garbage management.||United States|
|1896||General||Organization||Cory Environmental is founded in England. It provides services in the collection, recycling and disposal of waste.||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.||United Kingdom|
|1907||Plastic waste||Background||Bakelite is invented as the first synthetic plastic. "The first synthetic plastic — Bakelite — was produced in 1907, marking the beginning of the global plastics industry."|
|1912||General||Organization (for-profit)||British waste management Biffa is founded.||United Kingdom|
|1916||General||Technology||Cities in the United States begin switching from horse–drawn to motorized waste collection equipment.||United States|
|1920s||Solid waste||Technology||A dumping lever mechanism is introduced for garbage removal trucks.||United Kingdom|
|1920s||General||Infrastructure||Using wetlands for disposal of waste becomes popular in the United States.||United States|
|1920s||Solid waste||Technology||Mechanical transport for solid waste management is introduced in South Africa.||South Africa|
|1930||Solid waste||Policy||The king of Patiala in India converts cars into garbage vehicles.||India|
|1934||General||Policy||The United States supreme court bans municipal waste dumping into oceans.||United States|
|1934||General||Organization (for-profit)||German Recycling and waste management company Remondis is founded.||Germany|
|1935||Scrap||Background||The can of bear is first commercialized.||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.||United States|
|1938||Solid waste||Technology||The Garwood Load Packer becomes the first truck to incorporate a hydraulic compactor. "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.||United States|
|1942||Technology||Low density polyethylene is invented.|
|1944||Background||Dow Chemical Company develops styrophoam.||United States|
|1949||Statistics||Over 2500 Garwood Load Packers are in use across the United States and Canada.||United States, Canada|
|1950||Technology||Canadian inventor Harry Wasylyk from Winnipeg invents the first garbage bag.||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.||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.||United States|
|1955||Technology||The Dempster Dumpmaster is introduced as the first front loader.|
|1956||Policy||The Clean Air Act is passed in Britain, replacing solid fuel for heating house by with gas and electricity.||United Kingdom|
|1960||Organization||Waste management company Covanta Energy is founded.||United States|
|1960s||Technology||The first patents for residential garbage compactors are filed in the United States.||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.||Sweden|
|1961||Technology||The first vacuum waste system in the world is installed at Sollefteå Hospital in Sollefteå, Sweden.||Sweden|
|1962||General||Organization (non-profit)||The United States National Waste & Recycling Association is founded.||United States|
|1965||Technology||The first vacuum system for household waste is installed in the new residential district of Ör-Hallonbergen, Sweden.||Sweden|
|1968||Organization (for-profit)||American company Waste Management is founded.||United States|
|1968||Organization (for-profit)||American waste management company Browning-Ferris Industries is founded. It would go bankrupt in 1999.||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".|
|1970||Organization (for-profit)||American company Waste Industries is founded. It provides non-hazardous solid waste and recycling collection, transfer, and disposal.||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.||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.||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.|
|1975||Organization (for-profit)||Australian waste management company Cleanaway is founded.||Australia|
|1975||Organization (for-profit)||American waste management company Casella Waste Systems is founded.||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.||United States|
|1976||Organization||Canadian waste-to-energy technology and engineering services company Himark BioGas is founded.||Canada|
|1977||Organization (non-profit)||American environmental advocacy organization Californians Against Waste is founded.||United States|
|1980||Organization (for-profit)||Clean Harbors is founded. It provides hazardous waste disposal for companies.||United States|
|1988||Organization (for-profit)||Allied Waste Industries is founded. Its major business is waste collection and recycling.||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. ||Switzerland|
|1989||Organization (non-profit)||Non-profit Australian environmental conservation organization Clean Up Australia is founded.||Australia|
|1990||Statistics||Global municipal solid waste touches 1.3 billion metric tons.|
|1990||Organization (for-profit)||South African waste management company SA Waste Holdings is founded.||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.||Switzerland|
|1992 (5 May)||Policy||The Basel Convention enters into force. Many countries pass legislations enlisting waste that cannot be imported into their territory.|
|1993||Organization (for-profit)||British waste management and recycling company Environmental Waste Controls is founded.||United Kingdom|
|1996||Organization (for-profit)||Bangladeshi waste management and recycling company Waste Concern is founded.||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.||United States|
|1998||Organization (for-profit)||American waste management company Republic Services is founded.||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.||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.||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.||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.||United Kingdom|
|2000||Organization||American solid waste collection company Advanced Disposal Services is founded.||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.||Philippines|
|2001||Organization||Canadian waste management company Waste Services Inc. is founded.||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.|
|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."|
|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. 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.||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.||United States|
|2006||Electronic waste||Statistics||Electronic waste makes up 5% of the total solid waste stream.|
|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.||Malaysia|
|2007||Food waste||Campaign||Love Food, Hate Waste launches. It is the first major campaign to tackle food 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.||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.||France|
|2008||Solid waste||Statistics||389 million tons of municipal solid waste are generated in the United States during the year.||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.||New Zealand|
|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.  Due to this movement, Denmark would achieve a national reduction in food waste by 25% in 5 years (2010–2015).||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.||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.||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.||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.|
|2010||Statistics||Coastal plastic waste generated within 50 kilometers of the coastline amounts to 99.5 million tons.||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.|
|2011||Policy||The government of Zanzibar prohibits the use of plastic bags.||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.|
|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.|
|2013||Biodegradable waste||Organization||The Composting Association is founded as a trade organization for the biodegradable waste management industry in the United Kingdom.||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.||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.||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%.|
|2015||Plastic waste||Policy||The first state-wide ban on plastic bags in grocery and convenience stores is enacted in California.||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.|
|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.||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.||Japan|
|2016||Electronic waste||Statistics||Yearly worldwide accumulation of e-waste reaches 49.3 million tons.|
|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.||United states|
|2017||Electronic waste||Statistics||Almost 50 million tons of electronic waste are thrown out, a 20% increase from 2015.|
|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.||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.||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%.|
|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.|
|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.|
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- Timeline of recycling
- Timeline of water treatment
- Timeline of sanitation
- Timeline of hygiene
- Timeline of pollution
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