The Unknown History Of Waste Management

04Sep 2015

Like many things in our modern lives, most of us take waste disposal for granted. In the majority of households the process simply involves, putting rubbish in our little bin, moving it to the big bin and waving it goodbye as a nice council worker takes it away. It’s a nice and efficient system we’ve got going on now, but while most people don’t want to think about it, we should all be grateful of how easy it is to dispose of rubbish these days. Way back, rubbish would literally line the streets, and bodily fluids would be falling from the sky. So in appreciation of the excellent systems we now have in place, we wanted to take a walk back through time, and explore the history of waste management, how it was then, compared to how it is now. Hold on to your stomachs, it’s not a pretty picture.


•    The first account of a specified place for waste was in 500BC! In Athens, Greece, it was decided that waste needed to be managed somewhere specific, so dumps were created. These had to be at least one mile outside of the city limits.


•    From here on out many cultures decide that a designated dump is a good idea. Many then decide that waste should be burned once collected, this is the new way of managing waste, although generally occurs by accident due to methane production.


•    1031 – The Japanese begin the trend of recycling by recycling paper and selling it as new.


•    During the 1300s the English Parliament declares that waste should not be dumped in public waterways, this is mostly due to the increase in cases of the Bubonic Plague which kills thousands.


•    The mid 19th Century is where waste management becomes more formalised in England. Due to various outbreaks of cholera and other diseases, it is decided that more needs to be done to prevent waste from causing infection. Edwin Chadwick is the pioneer of this movement.


•    In 1846 the Nuisance Removal and Disease Prevention act is introduced and aims to progress the way waste is dealt with.


•    The Public Health Act of 1875 decrees that all households must have a receptacle for their waste which can allow waste to be removed by local authorities.


•    This decree led to an increase of waste that needed to be dealt with, and led to the development of incinerators for waste disposal.


•    Garbage was removed by teams of horse and cart drivers who collected the waste, and transported it to the municipal dumping areas.


•    During the beginning of the 20th Century, these dump carts became motorized, and then automatic leverage mechanisms were introduced in the 1920s. Suddenly waste could be dealt with much more efficiently.


•    During this time several cities in America declared fears that the space for waste was running out! Although they managed to find additional space to use.


•    As a result of World War Two in 1939, an effort has to be made to recycle as much as possible due to disruption to new manufacturing.


•    In 1964 the aluminium can is used, meaning cans could now be recycled. People are suddenly interested in how recycling can affect the world.


•    From the 1960’s onward there is a steady increase in campaigning and research into recycling and reducing waste. In the 1970’s scientists come to recognise that waste and waste management may be affecting global warming. This comes to a head in 1997 with the Kyoto agreement to decrease waste, increase recycling, and positively impact global warming.


•    Present day – recycling efforts continue and we now recycle more than ever.

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