Recycling has risen rapidly in awareness in the last couple decades. Public service announcements promote the benefits and ease of recycling. Cities in the United States are offering better recycling programs and more drop-off bins. Places like Denver recycle more with the offer of free recycling pickup and the opportunity to enroll in compost recycling programs.
Even though it sees reconsideration just gained popularity in the last few years, the concept of recycling has been around since the seventeenth century. In Philadelphia, the Rittenhouse Mill opened in 1690. Their main purpose was to create paper from recycled cotton and linen as well as used paper.
The first metal recycling occurs in 1776. Patriots in New York City melt down a status of King George III to turn the scrap into bullets. In 1850, junk dealers in Reno, Nevada scavenge the Oregon, Santa Fe and California trails for personal belongings. Pioneers would often abandon items on their long journey to the west.
The first recycling center was established in New York City in 1897, long before they had the problem of safe garbage disposition figured out. A year later, the New York Street Cleaning Commissioner organizes the country's first rubbish sorting plant for recycling.
At the turn of the century, American cities beginning estimating and recording collected waste. This information became vital in figuring out what the country's recycling needs were. In 1904, large scale aluminum recycling begins in Chicago and Cleveland.
The same year, Montgomery Ward begins mailing out shopping catalogs. They send out three million, each weighing four pounds of paper. Also in that year, a new post office law begins third and fourth class mail categories, meaning this kind of mail does not need stamps. This opens the door for mail advertising and solicitations, creating more paper circulation.
The invention of more recyclable materials in order to make life more convenient began in the late 19th century and continued through the mid-20th. Paper towels are invented, paper cups replace tin cups at public water vending machines, and cellophane is injected to be used for plastic packaging.
In 1916, Dr. Thomas Jasperson obtains a permission to create paper from de-inked wastepaper. WWI brought out a revolution in recycling. The shortage of raw materials created the government motto to stop wasting. Everything that was thrown away was reconsidered as valuable for the war industry.
WWII brings out another recycling revolution. Materials such as wood and metal are reclaimed for the war effort. This further increases the reliance on synthetic materials, like plastics. Americans collect rubber, paper, glass, metals, and fats to help the war effort. Paper recycling markets are overwhelmed by the amount collected.
The first Earth Day is celebrated in 1970, along with the creation of the EPA. A year later, Oregon passes the country's first bottle bill. They offer cash for aluminum, glass, and plastic containers and remove 7% of their garbage from the waste stream. The first city wide curbside recycling bins occur in University City, Missouri for collecting newspapers in 1974.
Rhode Island became the first state to pass mandatory recycling laws for aluminum and steel cans, glass, newspapers, and # 1 and # 2 plastic in 1986. San Francisco is able to recycle a quarter of its commercial and residential waste a year later. Plastic bottles begin their recycling number system in the late eighties, allowing people to more easily recycle them.
Recycling laws became widespread in 1990 and continue to evolve and improve. Many states leave it up to their residents to recycle, however more public awareness means the public is taking active steps to reduce their household and business waste.