Early America & Industrial Revolution: Timeline
New Amsterdam (now New York City) passed a law against casting waste in the streets.
Rittenhouse Mill, America’s first paper mill, opened in Philadelphia, making paper from recycled cotton and linen as well as used paper.
Colonists in Virginia commonly buried their trash. Holes were filled with building debris, broken glass or ceramic objects, oyster shells and animal bones. They also threw away hundreds of suits of armor that were sent to protect colonists from arrows of native inhabitants.
Some historians trace the beginnings of the environmental movement back to 1739, when Benjamin Franklin led an effort, citing "public rights," to petition the Pennsylvania Assembly to stop commercial waste dumping in Philadelphia and remove tanneries from Philadelphia's commercial district.
Benjamin Franklin started the first American municipal street-cleaning operation in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The first metal recycling in America occured when patriots in New York City melted down a statue of King George III and made it into bullets.
Benjamin Franklin used slaves to carry Philadelphia's waste downstream.
Charleston, West Virginia, enacted a law protecting vultures from hunters, as the birds helped eat the city's garbage.
A report in England linked disease to filthy environmental conditions and helped launch the "Age of Sanitation."
In Britain, the Public Health Act of 1848 began the process of waste regulation.
Junk dealers in Reno, Nevada scavenged personal belongings from the Oregon, Santa Fe and California trails. Pioneers abandoned the items on the long trek west.
Residents of Washington, D.C. dumped garbage and slop into alleys and streets, pigs and dogs roam freely, and rats and cockroaches infested most dwellings including the White House.
Health officials in Memphis, Tennessee, decided there might be a correlation between the spread of Yellow Fever in the Memphis area and garbage being dumped throughout the city. To reduce the threat of disease, residents were told to take their garbage to specific locations on the edge of town.
New York City's Metropolitan Board of Health declared war on garbage, forbidding the "throwing of dead animals, garbage or ashes into the streets." (Years later, it was reported that New York City scavengers still removed 15,000 horse carcasses...Most of these horses had belonged to the city and pulled street cars.)
New York City stopped dumping its garbage from a platform built over the East River. (They continued dumping it into the Atlantic Ocean for decades.)
Energy from waste began its development in Britain as the first "destructor" was designed and constructed in Nottingham. Destructors were prototype incineration plants which burnt mixed fuel producing steam to generate electricity. During the next 30 years, 250 destructors were built in Britain. They subsequently were opposed on the grounds of emissions of ashes, dust and charred paper which fell onto the surrounding neighbourhood.
In order to prevent mass scavenging, and cleanup the country, the British Public Health Act of 1875 was created to give authority for waste collection. The first concept of a movable garbage receptacle (dust bin) was created to store ash waste. These bins were collected/emptied weekly.
Memphis, Tennessee, Mayor John Flippin organized garbage collection at homes and businesses with small wooden carts pulled by mules.
Historical data showed that fewer than one quarter of America's cities could boast of a municipally organized system for disposing of waste.
The first American garbage incinerator was built on Governor's Island, New York. (During the next two decades,
nearly 200 garbage incinerators were built throughout the United States.)
In Washington, D.C., a health officer reported that "Appropriate places for [refuse] are becoming scarcer year by year, and the question as to some other method of disposal...must soon confront us. Already the inhabitants in proximity to the public dumps are beginning to complain..."
The British Paper Company was established specifically to make paper and board from recycled materials. Waste paper was obtained from organisations such as the Salvation Army and rag-and-bone men.
It was reported that as many as 750,000 watermelon rinds were discarded during the summer months in New York City.
Boston Sanitary Committee found that a large number of citizens (to get rid of their garbage and avoid paying for its collection) "burned it, wrapped it up in paper and carried it on their way to work and dropped it when unobserved, or threw it into vacant lots or into the river."
Harper's Weekly reported that "...the garbage problem is the one question of sanitation that is uppermost in the minds of local authorities [in the United States]."
The citizens of Alexandria, Virginia became disgusted by the sight of barge loads of garbage floating down the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. They started sinking the barges upriver from their community.
New York City's Street Cleaning Commissioner organized the first U.S. comprehensive system of public-sector garbage management. The service employed 2,000 white-clad employees, known as "White Wings," to clear the streets and cart off garbage to dumps, incinerators, the Atlantic Ocean and the first rubbish sorting plant for recycling in the U.S.
Waste reduction plants, which compressed organic wastes to extract grease, oils, and other by-products, were introduced to the U.S. from Vienna, Austria. The plants later were closed because of their noxious emissions.
The federal Rivers and Harbors Act restricts dumping in all navigable rivers, to keep them open for shipping.
Earlier and later information here: