Who Invented Recycling, and Why is it so Important ?

Recycling may seem like a relatively new concept, but researching who invented recycling shows that for centuries in the past, recycling was a way of life. People of the distant past didn’t waste anything they could put to use. Animals were used as food, their hides used as clothing, ligaments were used for thread, and their bones used to create tools, weapons and even ornamental jewelry.

It’s estimated that today humans waste 40 million tons of food each year. In the past, it was just accepted that nothing could go to waste, everything was used. The people of the past would probably wonder how we could be such a wasteful society.

E-Waste and E-Recycling

In addition to 40 million tons of food being thrown out every year, 40 million tons computer and other electronics (e-waste) is also discarded every year, and only about 13% of that is currently recycled. It’s estimated that over 70 million computers are already sitting in landfills. As electronics continue to become obsolete when newer products are introduced, it’s easy to predict that the amount of e-waste not being recycled will continue to rise.

E-waste isn’t just a problem of too many items being discarded, it’s also a major threat to the environment and the health and safety of people everywhere. E-waste is loaded with toxic materials that collect in landfills and contaminates the soil and water, thereby contaminating the food sources and the limited supply of drinking water the Earth has.

Recycling Saves Resources


On average, Americans will use the equivalent of 7 trees a year: 680 pounds of paper that will mostly be thrown away and not recycled. It takes about 24 trees to make a single ton of printer paper. A single faucet dripping a drop per second will waste 540 gallons of water in a year. For each ton of glass that is recycled, a ton of natural resources are conserved. And recycling a ton of steel will conserve about 2,500 pounds of iron ore and 1,400 pounds of coal.

Recycling Saves Energy

Recycled paper uses about 70% less energy than paper made from raw resources. Recycling a ton of plastic saves 1,000-2,000 gallons of gasoline. Recycling a single aluminum can saves enough energy to power an average TV for about 3 hours. Twenty recycled cans can be made with the same energy required to make one new can from raw materials.

Instead of trying to determine who invented recycling, a better question may be: when did society stop recycling and become the culture of the disposable? Items are no longer built to last, and people have grown accustomed to discarding things they no longer want, instead of recycling. Reusing and recycling conserves our limited resources, in turn using less energy, which then causes less air pollution. Recycling and reusing cleans up not just landfills, but also the air. When recycling and reusing become the norm instead of discarding items, the culture of the disposable will become a culture of conservation.


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