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7 interesting bits of environmental trivia

By: Shea Gunther on Jan. 26, 2012, 7:14 a.m.
1890s photo of a man recycling


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Citywide recycling programs started in the 1890s

We like to think that environmentalism and green living in general are modern-day constructs, but if you think about it, smart pragmatic solutions often involve looking back to how we did things before we got hooked on things like fossil fuels and industrial chemicals.

While it wasn't until after the 1970s that most Americans had heard of recycling, the first modern citywide programs were being run as early as the 1890s where in New York City, Col. George E. Waring Jr. (pictured left) was appointed as street cleaning commissioner. From the start of his appointment, he set out to reform the business of collecting society's waste. He built the first municipal facility to separate and reuse and resell different kinds of waste, which he mandated be sorted by homes and businesses.

The 1890s was a good decade for recycling in New York City. In 1897, the Benedetto family opened up the first American recycling center where they collected and sold or recycled newspapers, rags and other reusable trash.