The Origins of Recycling

Since there has been stuff, there has been recycling. The ancient Romans, Greeks, and Japanese recycled scarce building materials, clothes, and furniture into new buildings, rags, and more furniture. Throughout most of human history it was easier to scavenge and reuse an item than to go through the effort of prying more materials out of the ground, especially since those raw materials then needed to be shaped, baked, or forged before they could be put into use. Until fairly recently, it was more difficult and costly for people to obtain raw materials than to carve what they have needed out of what they already had, so humans nearly always had an incentive to make the most out of what was on hand.

Relaxing the Standards

After World War II, the world changed. The industrial revolution gave way to the industrial age and suddenly, for a great number of people in the world, there was plenty of stuff, and plenty of money available to buy loads of that stuff. Items that had been precious just a few years before became disposable, tossed away when a newer model became available-almost without a backward glance. The truism that had lasted through the ages, “waste not, want not,” went out the window.

As stuff became more readily available—and more complicated—recycling became less of a useful and rewarding activity (how exactly does a person recycle the inner workings of a cathode ray television set, anyway?). A kitchen table isn’t a prime laboratory for reassembling a mess of tubes and wires and capacitors into a toaster—and why bother, when a better toaster is just waiting to be picked up any day of the week down at the local department store?

As life got easier and new stuff became cheaper, peoples’ priorities changed. They got out of the habit of recycling old stuff in favor of buying the new stuff. Who could blame them? There was a weekly service to pick up whatever trash was generated, trucks to haul it all away, and plenty of land to bury it in. “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without,” gave way to “It’s broken. Toss it in the trash.” Buying new, upgrading when an even newer model came out, and trashing anything out-of-date became the order of the day-until stories began to emerge of toxic chemicals in landfills, landfills that were filling up, and garbage scows trolling the eastern seashore, looking for a place to dump their unwanted loads.

Renewed Interest

As word began to spread about the harmful effects of unfettered garbage disposal, however, recycling and reducing waste came back into vogue. These days, even though recycling has become more common, it isn’t as though we’ve come full circle, nor probably will we ever. We’re not equipped to strip down today’s electronic gizmo in order to build tomorrow’s cell phone for ourselves. And we’re not about to give up the opportunity to own the latest state-of-the-art whatever. We will always be ready to embrace the latest technology-which sometimes turns out to be better for the environment, anyway. Still, that’s no reason that we can’t practice judicious, enlightened purchasing of the new and disposal of the old.

We have become painfully aware that there are limited resources on this planet we call home and limited space on this planet to dump our unwanted messes. While we can’t help creating garbage, we can make wiser decisions in dealing with it. We want to trust that the people who deal with our trash are doing their best to protect our planet. In the Denver Metro area, residents trust Affordable Roll-Offs for environmentally-friendly trash disposal. To order a dumpster rental in Denver for your disposal needs, or for the latest information on recycling alternatives, call (303) 339-0293 or click today!