History of Recycling

October 13, 2017 | News

Recycling is an ancient concept—at least as ancient as the Greeks in ancient history. Some would credit dinosaurs as the first recyclers. As important as it is to recycle, nature’s cycles are not quite what we would term recycling, and dinosaurs were not exactly innovators.

What is Recycling?

Recycling is creating new material from waste. It’s something more than simply allowing for the natural cycles of life to occur. Recycling is, in a sense, bypassing the natural order of things. It is not waiting for used water to makes its long journey through evaporation, condensation, and precipitation. It is bypassing the system and taking used water straight through a water treatment plant.

Back to the ancient Greeks. Sometime around 500 BC the Greeks decided to create the first municipal dump. Everyone was required by law to take their waste outside of the city. This was an important precursor to recycling. In 1031, the Japanese began to recycle paper, taking used paper and repulping it into new material. This was the first recorded occurrence of recycling.

Often used in conjunction with recycling is reusing. Reusing material is denying the premise that the lifespan of the material has ended. A notable effort in reusing was the founding of the Salvation Army in 1865.     

Will Recycling Save the World?

Well, that question implies that the world needs saving. What should recycling be saving the world from? A common modern concept involves a doomsday-like notion. If we do not recycle, we will eventually be swimming in our own waste and catastrophic natural disasters will become a regular occurrence. Popular culture with movies like Ferngully, Happy Feet, or Wall-e reinforce this notion. Rather than delve any further into controversial topics, let’s examine some solid concepts.

Unnecessary waste is irresponsible. If you can build the same house with 1 ton of leftover waste or 10 tons of leftover waste, go with less waste. Some waste is necessary. Unfortunately, nothing is a perfect system. Cold fusion is still science fiction. Reducing and reusing are both useful alternatives to recycling, and in many respects even more effective in preventing waste. Don’t bury a tire in the ground if someone has need of a tire swing.    

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