Historical Perspectives

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In some cities, garbage was simply tossed out the window and covered
periodically with dirt. During the Bronze Age in Troy, it is estimated
that the street level rose an average of about 4.7 feet per century!
Gradually, ancient cities like Athens and Jerusalem developed city
codes regulating the disposal of garbage. (64)

About 500 B.C., Athens issued the first known edict against throwing
garbage into the streets, and organized the first municipal dumps by
requiring scavengers to dispose of waste no less than one mile from the
city walls. (65)

The biggest advance in glass manufacturing prior to the 19th century
occurred in 200 BC when Babylonian craftsmen discovered the art of
glass blowing. (46)

From the time of its development in 105 A.D. by the Chinese civil
servant, Ts'ai Lun, to the early 19th century, the raw material of
paper was rags. A chronic shortage of rags developed toward the end of
the 18th century. More people were reading, more books were being
printed and, consequently, the price of paper rose while the supply
diminished. The results of the shortage were new papermaking methods:
In 1802, Mathias Koop began making paper from straw and various wood
pulps and on it printed a history of paper. In 1844, the mechanical
pulper was developed; a chemical process followed ten years later. Once
pulp could be made in large quantities, papermaking machines were
quickly developed and trees began to be "digested" in large quantities.

In 1690, paper recycling in the U.S. was born when the first paper mill
was established by the Rittenhouse family on the banks of the
Wissahickon Creek, near Philadelphia, PN. The paper at this mill was
made from recycled rags. (30)

Napoleon III is reported to have been the aluminum industry's first
customer. The French emperor backed Henri-Etienne Sainte-Claire
Deville's chemical extraction experiments. Deville developed a
practical way to produce aluminum chemically. When the experiments
produced the first aluminum in any quantity, it went into a rattle for
the emperor's son. (25)

Napoleon had dinnerware made of aluminum. At this time, less important
guests had to use gold and silver. (25)

In 1865, an estimated 10,000 hogs roamed New York City, eating garbage.

In 1868, John Wesley Hyatt invented the first plastic (celluloid) to
make billiard balls during an ivory shortage that threatened the
billiard industry. (18)

Photographic film made with celluloid (one of the first plastics) was
perfected in the late 1800's. Celluloid film led to a new era in
entertainment, the motion picture. (18)

Curbside recycling originated in 1874 in Baltimore. (21)

The first systematic incineration of municipal refuse was tested in
Nottingham, England, in 1874. (65)

In 1875, the nation's first incinerator in New York was born. By 1938,
design improvements led as many as 700 cities to use incinerators. Now,
because of growing concerns over pollution, all but 169 cities have
extinguished their garbage burners. (30)

In 1889, a Washington, D.C. health official wrote: "Appropriate places
for [refuse] are becoming scarcer year by year ... The waste must be
provided for, and provisions should not be longer delayed." (30)

In 1897, MRF's were born in the U.S. when New York City had its rubbish
delivered to a "picking yard". Here it was separated into five grades
of paper, four grades of metal and three grades of carpet. Burlap bags,
twine, rubber and horsehair were also separated for reuse. (30)

During World War I, reducing the weight of bicycles saved 2,000 tons of
steel. (21)

By 1915, 89% of all major U.S. cities had municipal garbage collection
service. (21)

In the mid-1930's, the first "sanitary landfills" were built in
California and New York. These were really only open pit dumps, covered
with dirt regularly to hide trash and cut down on flies, rats and
odors. (21)

During the raw materials shortage of World War II, virtually all of the
worlds silk was used up in the war effort. As a result, women's silk
stockings were replaced with nylon stockings. Today, we just call them
"nylons." (18)

During WWII, salvaging metal straps from corsets saved enough metal to
build 2 warships. (21)

As late as 1947, virtually 100% of all beverage containers were
returnable. (21)

The first "architectural" use of aluminum was the cast 100-ounce tip of
the Washington Monument (which is still in place). (25)

The compacting garbage truck, called the "Packer," was introduced in
1950. (21)

In 1955, the Corvette became the first car built with plastic body
panels. (18)

Between 1960 and 1984, the number of soda containers in America's solid
waste stream has tripled. (21)

The all-aluminum can was introduced in 1964. (21)

The first PET bottle was recycled in 1977. (37)

In 1982, the U.S. Army started using a helmet made of a plastic
composite called Kevlar* - the same material in bulletproof vests used
by police officers. The plastic helmet is about 30% more effective at
stopping shell fragments. *'Trademark of E.I. DuPont & Company Inc..

In 1986, Rhode Island became the nation's first state to pass a
mandatory recycling law for aluminum and steel "tin" cans, glass,
plastic (PET and HDPE) and newspapers. (30)

In 1987, the infamous "Garbage Barge", the Mobro 4,000, sailed down
the East Coast, through the Bahamas, to Belize and Mexico. The barge
was refused permission to dock at each port. After 6,000 miles of
sailing, the ship's load of trash was incinerated and the ash was
buried on New York's Long Island - where the garbage originated! (30)

In 1989, more than 90,000 African elephants were killed for their
ivory. Even when most countries prohibited commercial trade of ivory,
poaching still occurred. However, the increased use of plastic as an
ivory replacement has reduced the demand and price of ivory, making
poaching less profitable. (18)