The History of Waste Management
They say one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. However, throughout history this has not always held true. In fact, waste accumulation has imposed many threats to society over the centuries. In highly populated areas, large volumes of trash and other forms of waste put humans at risk for contracting diseases, polluting the environment, and making things smell—well, let’s say, less than pleasant.
Go ahead and picture a garbage dump in your mind. Now, picture that trash spread out the street curb as you walk outside to get your mail. While it’s not a very pretty sight, that’s exactly what city-life looked like in Europe during the Industrial Revolution. It was common practice for people to throw trash and sewage directly out of their windows and onto the sidewalks, allowing dogs to eat scraps of food.
During this time, there were no waste management systems in place. People disposed of trash freely, and the general population suffered as a result. These unsanitary living conditions sparked diseases such as the Bubonic Plaque, carried by rats who thrived in filth and garbage. Improper waste disposal therefore changed the course of history forever as it claimed millions of lives and threatened communities.
By the 20th century, most American cities had some form of trash removal. Before the first garbage truck was introduced, men collected garbage on horse-drawn carts. In the early 1920s garbage dumps began to appear. Early on, these were wetlands filled with garbage, ash, and dirt. While still an unsightly scene, it was still a step in the right direction for waste management. Although they lacked environmental regulation of modern day landfills, these dumps kept trash off the street and help to ease health hazards.
As society progressed, so did waste management systems. Better structures and regulations developed over time, ensuring a healthier and cleaner society. While it’s easy to take our clean streets, offices, and houses for granted, a simple look into history can allow us to appreciate current trash removal systems. So go ahead and give your dumpster some love today— it might just be the breath of fresh air you need!