The start of modern-day recycling in the UK can be traced back to 1970 when 23-year-old student Gary Anderson entered a design competition held by the Container Corporation of America to create a symbol for recycled paper. 

When did recycling start

Anderson, who was studying engineering at the University of Southern California, remembers he won about $2000 for coming up with his winning entry – the now globally recognised logo featuring three paper arrows.

Recycling was taking place long before 1970. Archaeological evidence indicates that glass was being recycled in the ancient city of Sagalassos, part of the Byzantine Empire, as early as 330 AD.  

The early Romans also recycled bronze coins into statues that could be sold at a higher monetary value than the original coins.

Fast-forward to the mid-1800s and the rising popularity of books in the UK meant that the supply of paper, which was then made out of discarded linen rags, could not keep up with demand.

By the start of the 1900s, books were being bought at auctions in the UK for the purpose of recycling the fibre content into new paper.

It is safe to say, therefore, that recycling started in the UK in the early years of the 20th century.

Recycling’s popularity grew after 1939 when World War Two resulted in food rationing and a shortage of everyday use products.

However, it was not until the 1960s that recycling in the UK became commonplace. This was the time when drinks companies offered money back for the return of the glass bottles.  

The Oxford Mail newspaper reported that in the 1960s local charities made thousands of pounds from bottle collection drives.

However, anyone growing up in the 1960s, 70s, 80s and even the early 90s will remember that money-back bottles provided a rich source of income for children keen to boost their pocket money.

Bottle banks

The UK’s first bottle bank came into use on 6 June 1977 when Stanley Race made history by dropping an empty jar into the recycling facility in Barnsley, South Yorkshire.

Although the UK government has passed laws attempting to control pollution since the industrial revolution, specific action aimed at promoting recycling only date back to 2001 when Prime Minister Tony Blair pushed ahead with the EU’s End of Life Vehicles Directive.

This forced car-makers to become responsible for some of the costs of recycling new cars.

And it was not until 2003 that the Household Waste Recycling Act was passed. This law required local authorities in England to provide every household with a separate collection of at least two types of recyclable materials by 2010.  

ProSkips’ approach to recycling has been developed on principles of economic and environmental sustainability. We support the Halving Waste to Landfill Scheme and always aim to reduce the amount of waste being sent to landfill wherever possible each year. Our depots across the country recycle all the wood, metal, cardboard and paper, soil, concrete, bricks and plasterboard put into the skips we supply.

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