Recycling as we know it today as part of the environmental movement first came to prominence in the 1970s, but it’s history stretches back thousands of years prior to that. For most of human history, production of goods of any sort was both expensive and time consuming, so most households practiced some form of recycling. Mass production and consumption in the wake of the industrial revolution changed all of that and recycling on a local government scale was implemented as a response. This week, we run through ten interesting facts you may not know about the history of recycling.

learn about the history of recycling

  1. The first ever recorded instance of waste paper recycling is from 1031 in Japan. Paper is a precious commodity so it is re-pulped to make new paper and then resold.
  2. Romans recycled bronze coins into statues to increase the value of the metal and during wartime, any sort of available metal was being melted down for reuse as weapons.
  3. The world’s first curb side recycling program was pioneered in France in 1884.
  4. The first Australian recycled paper mill was built in Melbourne 1815 and used recycled cotton and linen rags (a process patented in 1690) to make paper.
  5. BHP Steel pioneered industrial steel recycling in 1915.
  6. Henry Form pioneered car body recycling in the 1920s by recycling his Model T Fords to save resources and money.
  7. The Great Depression forced people to come up with ever more ingenious ways to make ends meet with what limited resources they had. The concept of ‘dual use’ became a major selling point for manufacturers, and families did things like using flour sacks to patch clothes, and reusing biscuit boxes as lunch boxes.
  8. During World War I and II, the US Government launches many national recycling initiatives in a bid to aid the war effort. One wartime recycling suggestion from the government was for people to return used animal fat to their butchers, as it could be used in munitions manufacturing.
  9. In 1970 an American recycled container company ran an art contest to raise environmental awareness. Gary Anderson’s entry was The Mobius Loop which has since become the international symbol for ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’.
  10. Today, a growing focus on the impact of the consumerism on the environment means that Australians are more conscious than ever about the importance of recycling. A government funded study in 2011 found that 51% of all waste in Australia is now recycled which translates to about 1090kg of materials per capita.


Metal Men Recycling is an established metal recycling business in Pakenham. We take all kinds and quantities of metal scrap and promise a competitive price.