Recycling as we know it today hasn’t always existed. As our society has become more reliant on single-use products and put less focus on making products that last, we have found a greater need to recycle. Since the invention of plastic and cardboard, it has become more important for us to recycle our rubbish and ensure our planet has a strong future.
How has recycling evolved and how has it changed?
When did humans start recycling?
Although recycling has been a common process for thousands of years, the first instance of recycling can be traced back to Japan in 1031. Due to a lack of resources, ancient societies would have reused products as much as possible to save the limited resources they had.
Paper recycling - 1031
In Japan, paper production moved away from state control as workers gradually merged into common society during the decline of the Japanese Imperial Court in the Heian Period. Private estate owners then built paper mills and hired workers to continue making paper. After a while, it became common to reuse paper to conserve materials and maximise output.
Metal recycling - 1776
During the American war for independence from the British, metal recycling started in order to help the war effort. The statue of King George III in New York City was torn down, melted and converted into bullets following the reading of the first draft of the Declaration of Independence. They created 42,088 bullets from the statue.
The Shoddy Process - 1813
In Batley, West Yorkshire, Benjamin Law created ‘the Shoddy Process’ in which he ground old rags and respun them into yarn to create recycled wool. By 1860 Batley was creating over 7,000 tonnes of recycled wool materials every year.
Bottle bank - 1977
In Barnsley, West Yorkshire, Stanley Race dropped an empty jar into the country’s very first glass recycling bank. Bottle banks began appearing across the country to create a place to recycle empty bottles and jars. As glass is an infinitely recyclable material, this was a pivotal moment to make recycling easier.
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