Notable Firsts in the History of Recycling

Notable Firsts in the History of Recycling, a blog post by EcoGoodz, a mixed rags supplier

Though only recently popularized in the modern world, recycling is not a new concept. It dates back to ancient times. Following are a few notable “firsts” in the history of recycling.

History of Recycling, an infographic by EcoGoodz, a mixed rags supplier
Please share this infographic and help spread the word about the history, development, and importance of recycling!

500 BCE The First Municipal Dump

In Athens, Greece, city law stipulated that waste must be disposed of at lease one mile outside city walls.

Did you know? At its height the population of ancient Athens reached nearly 300,000 people.


1031 AD The First Paper Recycling

In Japan, all used paper was re-pulped and formed into new paper.

Did you know? During the Heian period of 794-1192 AD, the Japanese were the preeminent paper-makers. They were unrivaled in their skill and knowledge of papermaking.


1690 The First Paper Recycling in the United States

The Rittenhouse Mill in Philadelphia made paper from mixed rags comprised of recycled cotton and linen.

Did you know? During the 1770s, colonials turned to recycling to provide material to fight the war of independence against Britain.

According to one source,

Silversmith Paul Revere advertises for scrap metal of all kinds.  General George Washington urges the reuse of old worn chain from frigates.  And publisher Benjamin Franklin uses reconstituted scrap paper in his early printing.  Patriots contribute metal, paper, cloth, and other used items to the American Revolution.  Among other things, iron kettles and pots are melted down for armaments. 


1874 The First Curbside Recycling

Curbside recycling was introduced in Baltimore Maryland.

Did you know? In the 1890s, Colonel George Waring implements “the first practical, comprehensive system of refuse management in the United States. The system requires households to sort organic wastes, paper, ashes, and street sweepings into separate containers for collection” (source). For his efforts he was given the nickname the “Apostle of Cleanliness.”


1970 The First Earth Day Celebration

A short five years after the Solid Waste Disposal Act of 1965, Earth Day helped to educate the public about recycling and litter clean-up. In the nearly 50 years since it was first held, Earth Day has grown into a vast movement involving dozens of countries and millions of people worldwide.


Since the 1970s, recycling has become increasingly more common and “normal”. Most people in the US enjoy curbside recycling and many municipalities offer incentives and/or special programs for the recycling of less-commonly-recycled materials such as carseats and clothing.

With today’s technological advances, nearly everything can be recycled and/or reused/repurposed in some fashion.

The challenge in today’s society is not recycling per se; it is teaching people to consume less, in order to create less waste. Recycling is wonderful; it’s wonderful that plastic can be melted and re-formed into new products, but it would be even more wonderful if, as a society, we learned to live with less so that the waste is not created in the first place.



EcoGoodz is a wholesale used clothing supplier in the USA. We offer many different types of used clothing in bulk including credential clothing, mixed rags, bulk linens, wholesale used shoes (capsacks and gaylords), as well as baled soft toys and gaylords of hard toys.