Recycling History

Solid waste and garbage management has been an important part of history ever since people began to establish permanent settlements.

Take a trip though history to discover how curbside waste and recycling service was established, as well as the evolution of many of the items we use today! (dates excerpted from www.astc.org)

• 1710 Colonists in Virginia commonly bury their trash. Holes are filled with building debris, broken glass or ceramic objects, oyster shells, and animal bones.
• 1776The first metal recycling in America occurs when patriots in New York City melt down a statue of King George III and make into bullets.
• 1800Pigs loose in the city streets throughout the country eat garbage and leave their own wastes behind.
• 1800Visitors describe New York City as a "nasal disaster, where some streets smell like bad eggs dissolved in ammonia"
• 1834 Charleston, West Virginia, enacts a law protecting vultures from hunters. The birds help eat the city's garbage.
• 1860 American newspapers are now printed on paper made from wood pulp fibers rather than rags.
• 1866 New York City's Metropolitan Board of Health declares war on garbage, forbidding the "throwing of dead animals, garbage or ashes into the streets."
• 1869The first commercial plastic, called celluloid, was developed by an entrepreneurial maker of novelty items. He had answered an ad placed by the supplier of billiard balls offering a reward for developing a suitable replacement material for the elephant ivory used to make the balls.
• 1872 New York City stops dumping its garbage into the East River.
• 1885 The nation's first garbage incinerator is built in the New York Harbor.
• 1894Citizens in Virginia are disgusted by the sight of barge loads of garbage flowing down the river from Washington D.C. They take to sinking the barges upriver from their community.
• 1897The first recycling center is established in New York City.
• 1898 Colonel George Waring organizes the country's first rubbish sorting plant for recycling.
• 1900Small and medium sized towns build piggeries, where swine are fed fresh or cooked garbage. One expert estimates that 75 pigs can eat one ton of refuse per day.
• 1904 Montgomery Ward mails out 3 million catalogues weighing four pounds each.
• 1904 Postmaster authorizes permit mail. This means that with a single fee, 3rd or 4th class mail can be posted without stamps. This opens the door for direct mail advertising and mass solicitations.
• 1907 An unexpectedly thick run of toilet paper is converted to become the first paper towels.
• 1912Cellophane is invented by a Swiss Chemist, which encourages the use of plastic packaging.
• 1914 W.K. Kellogg invents a wax paper wrapper for Corn Flakes boxes.
• 1920 During this decade, filling wetlands near cities with garbage, ash, and dirt becomes a popular disposal method.
• 1930Polyvinyl chloride is patented. It is used as a replacement for rubber. Another plastic, polystyrene, is produced by Dow Chemical Company.
• 1935The first aluminum can is produced by Kreuger's Cream Ale. Sales increase by 550% because customers loved the convenience.
• 1939 Wisconsin Select beer is sold in no deposit, no return bottles, to compete with the recent introduction of beer in no return cans.
• 1944Styrofoam is invented by Dow Chemical Co.
• 1948Fresh Kills landfill is opened in Staten Island, New York. It later becomes the world's largest dump.
• 1950 The growth of convenience foods (frozen, canned, dried, boxed, etc.) increases the amounts and types of packaging thrown away.
• 1958 The Bic Crystal Company introduces the throwaway pen.
• 1960 Bread is sold bagged in polyethylene rather than wrapped in waxed paper.
• 1965The Federal Government realizes that garbage has become a major problem and enacts the Solid Waste Disposal Act. This calls for the nation to find better ways of dealing with trash.
• 1968 The aluminum industry begins recycling discarded aluminum.
• 1970 The Federal Clean Air Act is enacted, leading to closing down incinerators.
• 1970 Millions of people rally nationwide on April 22 for the first Earth Day.
• 1971 Oregon passes the nation's first bottle bill, offering cash for aluminum, glass, and plastic containers.
• 1974The first city-wide use of curbside recycling bins occurs in Missouri for collecting newspapers.
• 1977 Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) soda bottles are introduced to replace glass bottles.
• 1979 EPA issues landfill criteria that prohibits open dumping, requiring all dumps to be "sanitary landfills".
• 1986 Rhode Island becomes the first state to pass mandatory recycling laws.
• 1987 The Mobro, a Long Island garbage barge, in search of a place to dump its load, is turned away by six states and three countries. The garbage is finally incinerated in Brooklyn.
• 1988The Plastic Bottle Institute develops a material-identification code system for plastic bottle manufactures (#1-#7).
• 1989Assembly Bill 939 was passed in California. Jurisdictions are required to meet diversion goals of 25% by 1995 and 50% by the year 2000.
• 1990McDonald's announces plans to stop the use of Styrofoam packaging of its food due the consumer protests.
• 2005The local landfill is closed to burying waste, and is operated as a transfer station. All waste generated in Sonoma County is hauled out of county.
• 2008Waste characterization study reveals Sonoma County has a 64% diversion rate.
• 2011Sonoma County Landfill reopens to limited amounts of waste.