Recycling in Ancient Times
In the 9th century, the first recorded evidence of recycling occurred. At that time, Japanese people recycled paper. Once they learned how to make paper using papyrus, they also learned they could reuse it, and recycled paper became a key component of producing it. Recycled paper, in those times, was considered more valuable than the original production. The recycled product was used many times over, often in Japanese artwork and painting.
Recycling in the United States
Though paper recycling remained relatively common in Asia, it was not done as often in the Western world. In the United States, the first true recycling occurred in 1690. At that time, a location in Philadelphia called the Rittenhouse Mill worked to produce linens. A key component of the work they did was to collect and recycle cotton products, including linens of all types. They used these materials to produce paper. The paper went on to be used in the production of books as well as newspapers.
Recycling During the Great Depression
During the Great Depression, the need to recycle was incredibly high. As a result, many manufacturers not only encouraged recycling but also advertised products with a double use, such as using biscuit containers to store the original food and also later to use as a lunchbox.
Recycling During World War II
Perhaps the most intense effort to recycle occurred during World War II. During this time, a massive effort across the United States and Europe took place to gather materials necessary for the manufacturing of weapons and machinery. This included the collection of steel, paper, rubber, tin and other materials necessary for producing anything to do with the war effort. More than 400,000 people came together to gather these materials.
Recycling in the 1960s
The 1960s brought numerous efforts to continue collecting items that are reusable. This includes glass, metals and yard waste. Paper collection was also a large effort.
Recycling in the 1970s
In the 1970s, the Earth Day movement took hold. It was first celebrated in April of 1970 and continues to be one of the driving forces behind recycling efforts in the United States and worldwide. This is also the time when the three-arrow recycling design was first produced. Curbside recycling began to pop up in some cities in 1974. And the U.S. Environmental Protection Agent launched its first grant program to encourage recycling in 1976.
Recycling in the 1980s and Beyond
In the 1980s and more recently, the efforts to recycle intensified, with more focus on a global effort. Efforts to clean up the world’s oceans began and, by 1985, there were national programs in the United States to encourage recycling.
Recycling continues to improve with organic-waste collection, removal of dangerous materials such as Styrofoam, and the investment in clean energy to reduce the need for production of harmful materials.