2600 BCE: The Maya of Central America had monthly burnings of the villager’s waste in large dump sites.

400 BC: The first municipal dump was established a mile outside the city limits of Athens, Greece.

200: The Romans created teams of two to pick up trash along city streets and is considered the first sanitation force.

1300: As population density began to rise, Great Britain passes the first law to keep residents from dumping trash in streets and waterways.

1340 – 1350: The Black Death broke out all across Europe and North Africa, largely because of the lack of waste removal. Although this did result in over 75 million deaths, it did force Europe to clean up its act.

1354: King Edward III started a group known as the “Rakers” to sweep the streets of London. Unfortunately most of collected waste was then deposited in the local rivers.

1400: Garbage was piled high and used a defense system outside the gates of Paris, France.

1450: German cities create a system that requires groups who deliver things to take trash with them as they leave and then dispose it.

1498: Spain begins mining for copper using scrap iron. This recycling technique is still used worldwide today.

1515: Court records detail that Shakespeare’s father was fined for illegal dumping. This began an era of actually enforcing waste removal regulations in Great Britian.

1657: Laws against disposing waste in public places began in New Amsterdam.

1690: The first business is started based upon recycling known as the Rittenhouse Mill in Philadelphia. They were able to transform cotton and linen into paper.


1705: American colonist began burying their trash. Hundreds of years later, countless suits of armor were discovered buried across the Virginia area.

1740: Benjamin Franklin starts petitioning and implementing efforts to make Philadelphia a more sanitary place. This is often considered the beginning of the Environmental Movement.

1776: After American Revolutionaries took down the King George III statue, they melted it into bullets. This is considered the first time metal was recycled in America and sparked many businesses that would directly benefit the war efforts.


1800: Pigs were allowed to run freely around American city streets in hopes to manage the trash, but inevitably create more problems. At this time, New York City of described as the “Nasal Disaster” for its incredible stench.

1830’s: More rural areas used laws to protect vultures from being hunted because they eat so much trash.

1842: Great Britain (finally) connects the spread of disease with the lack of proper waste removal and starts what is now known as the “Age of Sanitation.” This eventually leads to the Public Health Act.

1850: As American pioneers headed west, they often abandoned items along the way. A group out of Reno, Nevada began salvaging these items for resale, just like modern day junk yards.

1958: Newspapers in America are now printed on recycled wood pulp fibers.

1960: The lack of waste removal regulations in Washington, DC has allowed rats and cockroaches to insert themselves into every building, even the White House.

1965: The Metropolitan Board of Health in NYC forbids the disposal of animals, trash and ash in city streets. This was known as the War on Garbage and even restricted dumping waste in the river, but the ocean was still fair game.

1874: Great Britain produced the first waste incinerator called the “destructor.” Although it was very effective at managing trash, they were eventually phased out due to their negative emissions.

1881: A little less than 25% of America cities have an organized system for disposing unwanted materials. Over 15,000 dead horses and 750,000 watermelon rinds are removed from the streets, just in New York City.

1885: The first of 200 trash incinerators are built on American soil. (1885 – 1908)

1890: As American cities implement waste collection fees, citizens begin illegally dump more to avoid the costs.

1894: Large barges are utilized to hold trash and float along the various river ways. Citizens believe this is a terrible, unsightly idea and begin sinking the ships.

1895: New York City hires 2,000 employees to form the first public garbage management service. The “White Wings” cleaned streets, transported and sorted trash and then dumped it in the Atlantic Ocean.


1898: New York Street Cleaning Commissioner, George Waring organizes the first recycling center.

1899: The United States Federal Government outlaws dumping in rivers.

1900: Recording data of the waste collection begins. The average American at this time created 90 pounds of food waste, 75 pounds of trash, 750 pounds of ash every year.

1902: Over 127 United States cities provide regular collection of trash for their area residents.

1904: Aluminum is now recycled on a large-scale in Cleveland and Chicago.

1905: Garbage incinerators begin to be used to produce electricity for the Williamsburg Bridge in New York.

1917: The Waste Reclamation Service is started to aide in the World War 2 efforts armed the motto “Don’t Waste Waste – Save it.”


1916: In major cities around the world, 80% of the total waste generated was from coal and wood ash.

1918: The switch from horse drawn to motorized occurs for the waste collection services in the United States.

1930: Many companies begin producing disposable versions of their product, such as the razor blade. General Electric also starts marketing what they call the “garbage disposal.”

1933: Dumping waste in the Atlantic Ocean is officially outlawed by the Supreme Court.

1937: The Dempster Dumpmaster was the world’s first front loading garbage truck. The Dempster brothers of Knoxville, Tennessee are credited for the term dumpster and paved the way for the evolution of waste collection.


1940’s: Americans are allowed collect to rubber, paper, metal, fat and tin to exchange for money.

1948: The Fresh Kills Landfill begins operation in Staten Island, New York and will eventually become the largest dump in the World. It is currently one of only two man-made objects that can be seen from outer space.

1950’s: Styrofoam, TV dinners, aluminum beverage cans and many other products are created for convenience but ultimately lead to a greater amount of waste.

1963: The United States Federal Government implements the Solid Waste Disposal Act to help find more effective solutions for trash and provides funding for states.

1968: President Lyndon B. Johnson issues a commission to retrieve all the data regarding solid waste since 1800.

1969: Over 33% of United States cities separate and collect waste.

1970: The United States celebrates it first Earth Day, enacts the Resource Recovery Act, Clean Air Act and created the Environmental Protection Agency.

The first Earth Day ~ April 22, 1970, NYC

1971: Oregon offers money for aluminum, glass and plastic and is able to reduce trash by 7%, many states soon follow the trend.

1974: University City, Missouri becomes the first city in the world to implement curbside recycling bins.

1976: The U.S. passed the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, which was the first legislation to deal with hazardous waste.

1979: The Environmental Protection Agency issues the first regulations for landfills.

1986: Rhode Island becomes the first state to make recycling mandatory, while San Francisco is recycling over 25% of all of its trash!

1988: Since 1978, over 14,000 landfills are full and close forcing many states to ship their waste to other parts of the country.

1989: 38 states have laws requiring recycling and 7 of those states have mandatory curbside recycling.

1990: Major companies such as McDonald’s and Coca-Cola begin making products from recycled materials.

1995: Due to strict E.P.A. regulations only about 2,800 landfills exist in the United States.

1997: The United States has a recycling rate of 22.4% compared to 6.4% in 1960.

2000: Cities in California are mandated to recycle 50% of all waste.

2007: E.P.A. estimates Americans are recycling and composting 33.4% of waste, incinerators 12.6% and the rest ends up in the landfill.

2014: Sweden begins importing trash to convert it to energy.