The Stone Age
The history of waste is as old as mankind - only the quantity and mode of waste production have changed. The first garbage was from leftover food waste and faeces. Stone Age people buried their waste or piled up big heaps of rubbish and burned them occasionally.
According to archaeologists, during the 3rd Millennium BC, the inhabitants of large towns like Mesopotamia were literally bogged down in waste. With construction of larger settlements, first organized waste disposal was developed. The Romans go down in history with their water and sewage systems called "Cloaka Maxima". A selected range of households were connected at their own expense. Commercial companies were paid from a special municipal tax to clean the wastewater system, using slaves.
One of the famous old antique refuse dumps is the "Monte". This "Eighth hill of Rome" is 45 meters high, with a diameter of 1,000 meters and contains uncountable broken fragments of ancient amphorae (clay pot), used for transporting oil and grain from the provinces into the city.
In the Middle Ages this method fell into oblivion, along with many of the Roman inventions. Faeces and waste were simply dumped in front of the house on the street. Pigs were used in order to eliminate organic waste in the streets, but also they contributed to the pollution, which caused many diseases, including plague and cholera.
Only when the importance of hygiene in epidemic plagues was perceived, the construction of waste disposal systems and watering sewerages began.
At the beginning of the 15th century, a controlled disposal of waste in cities of the size of Hamburg (about 20,000 citizens at that time) commenced. Prisoners were deployed to take the waste as fertilizer to the fields. From the beginning of industrialization, the quantity of waste produced rapidly increased.
18th / 19th century
At the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century; public health became increasingly important. To get the ever increasing quantities of garbage under control, garbage dumps were built. The first waste incinerator plants were developed at the end of the 19th century in London.
Cloaka Maxima Monte Testaccio Monte Testaccio
On the banks of the Tiber,the Monte Testaccio, also known as the third hill of Rome, is an artificial mound built almost entirely of fragments of broken amphorae dating back to the time of the Roman Empire. Rome’s ancient landfill covers an area of about 20,000 m² and is over 35 meters high, made of fragments from an estimated 53 million amphorae - each one labeled with the name of the producer, the year and the quality of the oil.
4,532 kg total wastes produced per capita and year, that equals 87kg of waste per
person per week!
Today's overview in Germany
Only within the last few decades, the way of handling waste has changed. Through legislation and environmental awareness, the amount of produce should be minimized, before recycling.
Plans provide that in coming decades the amount of (not utilisable) garbage, which is disposed on landfills will be reduced to zero.
In Germany most of the garbage was dumped on about 50,000 uncontrolled landfills since the start of the 19th Century.
Today, in Germany there are only about 2,000 controlled landfills. Since 1935, a nearly comprehensive public waste disposal system has been available in Germany. This waste is either recycled or disposed. Hazardous waste such as sewage, toxic chemicals, heavy metals or radioactive substances, represent a danger to humans and environment; their disposal is subject to specific statutory provisions.
Beside many other countries, the Federal German industrial and consumer society disposesa total of 372.667.000 tons (in 2006) of waste per year, containing 46,426,000 tons of household waste and 23,211.000 tons of hazardous waste. Prescribed under the law, 250,000 employees provide the proper disposal of this pile of garbage. With an annual turnover of around 50 Billion Euro, the waste management is also an important sector of industry.
....and in Europe
The European law defines waste as any movable belonging, which the holder is going to discard. The EU-wide list of wastes currently knows exactly 839 types of waste, which are divided into two groups: non-hazardous and hazardous waste.
Today Situation Worldwide
Worldwide, about 130 million tonnes of waste are produced every day. Our groundwater is poisoned, our air polluted and 80,000 different hazardous substances and heavy metals get into the food cycle every second with growing tendency. "The excessive consumption especially in the industrialised countries, are resulting in more and more waste. If this does not change, the amount of waste will increase four-to fivefold by the year 2025 "(Agenda 21, Chapter 20 and 21).
This battle for waste material results in enormous costs that nobody wants to pay. One of the outcomes of this issue is the dumping of waste onto poor countries,
who receive a fraction of the money that it would cost to dispose of this waste properly. Manufacturing a plastic cup or packaging for a chocolate bar only takes a few seconds and is easily
dumped after it is finished - it will remain in this condition for centuries.
Plastic shopping bags in numbers:
Annual production worldwide: more than 600 billion – that is 9 per capita
Annual consumption in the USA: around 100 billion - that is 333 per capita
Annual consumption in Great Britain: around 18 billion – that is 357 per capita
Annual consumption in Germany: 3.5 billion - that is 43 per capita
A plastic bag takes 400 years to decompose.
These 600 billion plastic bags are produced with high energy costs, valuable raw materials are consumed unnecessarily.
All electrical and electronic equipment contains toxic pollutants; limited raw materials are consumed. This scrap heap increases daily in large dimensions.
Tens of thousands whales, seals and turtles die every year, because they swallow plastic bags.