Recycling, How it Started and Where its Going

Recycling may seem like a relatively new development that grew out of the rise of environmental awareness in the 70s and 80s. However, the first recycling program actually started in 1031 ADin ancient Japan when the first recorded incident of recycling paper sprang up. In the past thousand years recycling has become more widespread and comprehensive, and it’s only getting better.

The Industrialization of Recycling

After 1031 there wasn’t much advancement in recycling practices until 1690 when an industrial recycling factory was built in Philadelphia. This factory made paper from cotton and linen rags. Despite this advancement, recycling was still mostly unheard of except during war time when resources were limited.

Recycling During Wartime

Towards the end of the 19th Century, recycling and reusing materials was less important because of the abundance of goods provided by industrialization. Recycling didn’t again became a priority until World War II, when supplies of everything were being used by the war effort and everyone became resourceful regarding the use and reuse of metal and cloth in particular. Materials were very carefully conserved during the war and immediate aftermath, but when countries became more economically comfortable again, their commitment to recycling materials like metal, scrap cloth, and paper began to fade.

Modern Day Recycling

Recycling as an environmental cause did not enter the public consciousness in Europe until the 1960s when a surge in environmentalism made people reconsider how they were using natural resources. Since then state run recycling programs have been developed across the EU and in most developed countries. Now, materials like paper, plastic, glass, and metal can be recycled in most municipalities. Today recycling has become a large public and private concern with individuals striving to lessen their production of non-recyclable waste and some countries like Sweden even turning their rubbish into energy.

Read more about recycling and how you can help in Reuse and Recycling: Ideas to Prevent the Creation of Waste published by Map Waste, a waste disposal in Leicester.

The Future of Waste Management

Looking forward, it is likely that countries with less advanced recycling programs will start to emulate effective programs, like the ones found in Japan and Sweden. These countries rely on education and social pressure to encourage citizens to effectively participate in the recycling programs, making them more efficient. Also on the horizon is the expansion of composting as an environmental practice to recycle organic material into compost to use as a soil supplement. With the rise of composting we may also see a rise in the use of packaging that is also compostable, such as compostable plastic and paper packaging. In addition recycling factories are becoming more adept at using every possible bit of a material while keeping energy usage down.


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