US Statistics

United States Waste Production & Recycling

Since the beginning of time, humans have had to deal with the problem of trash. Though times have changed, our means of dealing with trash have essentially remained the same throughout the centuries. These methods are burning, dumping, recycling, and minimizing waste. Excessive trash has had many serious effects on the course of history, causing mass outbreaks of diseases such as the bubonic plague, cholera, and typhoid fever. We cannot afford to overlook garbage production, and we must dispose of our waste in a responsible fashion. Over the last century, waste production in the US has reached startling numbers, although the percent that is recycled is also increasing along with those numbers.

The United States and its History of Waste: A Timeline

In Philadelphia, the Rittenhouse Mill recycles the first paper using fibers from wastepaper and rags.
A report is made linking disease to dirty conditions and sanitation becomes a major issue.
On Governor’s Island in New York the first garbage incinerator was built in the U.S.
Waste reduction plants are created to compress organic waste but are soon closed because of toxic emissions.
New York opens the first official recycling plant in the U.S. where it sorts trash.
“Piggeries” were created and garbage was fed to pigs. However this led to an outbreak of vesicular exanthema and the pigs had to be killed.
There were 300 incinerators in the U.S.
Landfills were established in swamps, filling them and creating more usable land.
Fresh Kills landfill is opened on Staten Island, New York. It becomes the world’s largest city dump. Along with the Great Wall of China it is the only man-made structure visible from space.
Olympia, Washington is the first place to offer a deposit on aluminum cans.
The first federal solid waste management laws are enacted.
The U.S. aluminum industry begins recycling.
The EPA creates the first Earth Day and the Resource Recovery Act is enacted.
The first citywide curbside recycling starts in University City, Missouri (for newspapers).
The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act is created, which focuses on recycling.
The Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act (Superfund) was passed.
Hazardous and Solid Waste Amendments passed.
Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act passed. Rhode Island is the first state to pass mandatory recycling laws for cans, glass, newspapers and plastic.
Ocean Dumping Ban passed. The Plastic Bottle Institute develops a material identification code system for plastic bottle manufacturers (#1-6).
McDonalds stops using Styrofoam packaging due to protests. Coca-Cola and Pepsi announce they will use recycled PET bottles made of about 25% recycled plastic resin.
The federal recycling order is signed.
U.N. Earth Summit promotes sustainable development.

We found our information for this timeline using the following sources: