Many people see recycling as a fairly modern conception. However, recycling can actually be traced back hundreds of years ago.

Find out how recycling has evolved since then with this brief history of recycling.

Ancient Times

Recycling has been traced back to the Roman times; when pots and pans were melted down to create weapons during war. 

There’s also evidence to suggest the Romans melted down bronze coins and created statues that were sold at a higher price than the coins’ worth. 

Pre-Industrial Times

Before many of the products we are familiar with today were mass produced, it was commonplace for items to be reused around the home.

Once an item was truly exhausted, and it could be recycled (such as glass or aluminium), it would be melted down to create new products such as cooking utensils or jewellery.

Even ash from wood and coal fires was recycled to make new bricks.

Industrial Times

The Industrial Revolution brought about significant change in the way products were manufactured and distributed. It became commonplace to simply dispose of items rather than recycle them.

However, during harsher years, such as the Great Depression, people found new ways to use old items. Picture frames were made from papier-mâché and worn-out towels were cut into smaller squares and used as flannels.

The War Years

Recycling saw a sudden boom during the first and second world war, when the public were asked to donate metal items to contribute to the war effort. Iron, steel and tin were all recycled to make ships and weapons.

recyclingEven cooking fat was reused to make explosives. A pound of fat contained almost enough glycerin to create a pound of explosives. Anything that could be reused and recycled was. Worn sheets were turned into pillowcases and blankets were fashioned into coats and parachutes were cut down to create silk underwear. The public really took the motto of ‘make do and mend’ to heart.

Post-War and late 20th Century

The 1940s and 1950s saw a rise in landfills across the United Kingdom. More people turned to just throwing away items without considering if they could be reused or recycled.

The first Earth Day in 1970 heralded a recycling resurgence as more people took responsibility for their impact on the environment.

In 1977, the first bottle bank in the United Kingdom was unveiled in South Yorkshire, and paved the way for a further fifty thousand to be built across the country.

21st Century

From 2002 to 2012, worldwide urban waste more than doubled from six hundred and eighty million tons per year to over one billion tons per year. By 2025, it is predicted to reach over two billion tons per year.

Although much is being done to encourage recycling, especially from an early age, there is still a long way to go.

A target has been set by environmental lobbyists in the European Union, who would like to see half of all household waste recycled by 2025.

This target could be achieved as long as we all take responsibility for our actions and contribute to the long term good of our planet. Instilling good habits in the younger generation and actively seeking advice surrounding what can and cannot be recycled will all help to reach this target.

Image credit: Free Digital Photos.

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