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Come On, We’ve Been Recycling for Thousands of Years!


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One might assume that recycling is a modern idea created around the hopes of preserving the environment. The green movement feels new, modern, 21st century. But the idea of recycling has been around centuries; research suggests that recycling has been around as early as 400 BC, and earlier.

Those Recycling Romans

We don’t exactly have ancient literature advocating curbside recycling initiatives, but Archaeological finds and research have indicated that the Byzantine Empire, a powerful Greek-speaking society also referred to as the Eastern Roman Empire, was hard at work thousands of years ago recycling glass in the great ancient city of Sagalassos, now in present day southwestern Turkey.

Evidence has also been found that the Roman Empire incorporated recycling into their daily lives. By recycling old bronze coins into the magnificent bronze statues that could still be found today, the Ancient Romans were able to reuse old materials and cut the cost of building new statues. It’s been found that the Romans recycled weapons from their conquered foes, and even recycled glass when it became scarce in the 4th century.

Researchers and archaeologists have also discovered that recycling goods such as coins and jewelry was a necessity in times of hardships and war. These valuable goods were needed to be melt down and transformed into weapons and other items necessary for a viable and successful war. It has been noted that during archaeological digs, less recyclable waste was found around places thought to have experienced war and disease. It is thought that during hard times it was harder to come across and find the proper materials to make new important items, resulting in the recycling of waste being an important survival tactic.

1750s-1850s – Recycling for Profit

Recycling is known to be a common practice during the pre-industrial era. It was more economically viable to recycle worn materials into new products. Materials such as aluminum, glass, bronze, and even wood were recycled.It has been discovered that the waste that coal fires created, such as ash and dust, were recycled into a key ingredient for building bricks. Bronze was also recycling in much of Europe as a way to save money on new materials.

Although today the main idea behind recycling is to save the environment, the motivation of recycling in pre-industrial times was simply to save money and make cost effective new products – both highly motivating reasons.

The Great Depression and World War 2

Recycling became essential for people who were affected by the Great Depression. Unable to afford new materials, they relied on recycled goods to satisfy their needs. Flour sacks were used as clothing. “Make do, and don’t throw anything away” was a popular expression at the time.

Recycling was very popular during the Second World War. It was considered patriotic to recycle during the time, after a number of propaganda campaigns by the warring parties. There was a very tight budget and limited materialsduring the war in countries like Britain, causing people to recycle their old goods into new weapons and other materials essential to daily life.

Recycling in Modern Day Society

Nowadays recycling isa practice followed by millions of people and has become a movement for completely new reasons. Recycling in modern day society focuses not only on common metals and glass, but also electronics and batteries. For example, the goal of an electronics recycling company like All Green Recyclingis to take old, unusable electronics, salvage the rare earth metals inside them such as praseodymium and dysprosium, and reuse them in new electronics. With the every-rising demand of electronic devices such as computers and cell phones, recycling of rare earth elements and metals plays a crucial role in keeping our society from running of the materials that we need.


Recycling, although it has come a long way since ancient times, has always been apractice important for economical and even personal survival. Recycling has indeed played an important role all throughout history. Our society will continue to rely on recycled goods, and it is has become of global critical importance as we run out of essential rare metals.

Edited by emon2
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