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History of Scrap: When did Metal Start to be Recycled?

Scrap metal recycling is the process by which old products and structures are recovered and repurposed. It can also be the activity of manufacturing scrap, so that it can be introduced as a raw material in the production of metal goods.

It’d be easy to believe that recycling is a modern phenomenon. However in reality, it’s been practiced since as early as 400 BC – and that’s just as far as our records go! In this article we’ll explore this a little further, looking at when scrap metal was first recycled and the reasons for this.

Ancient times

One of the first slivers of evidence of metal recycling, although not entirely concrete, was in fact from Roman times. Various historians have suggested that early Romans would recycle old bronze coins, having them melted down to be repurposed as bronze statues, the idea being that these statues would have greater monetary value than the original coins. What’s more, during wartime, metals ranging from jewellry to coins were being recycled and fashioned into weapons and other essential items.

Archaeologists claim that metal recycling was a more popular practice during times of distress. That is, archaeologists could marry up historical evidence of war and famine with an observed lack of physical waste found on digs, indicating that during these periods, Romans were increasing their recycling efforts. Although the circumstances are different, this isn’t too dissimilar from what occurs now – 2500 years later.

Pre-industrial times

Unbeknownst to many, recycling metal prior to the industrial revolution was actually fairly common. This is largely because, before mass production, people had to be more resourceful. In Europe, for example, evidence suggests that scrap bronze and aluminium was collected and melted down for perpetual reuse. However, it’s fairly clear that, unlike today, the benefits of recycling were economic rather than environmental.

World War II

World War II was an important period for recycling. The war effort caused large-scale financial problems and a huge shortage of raw materials with which to create weapons and other goods, meaning recycling wasn’t just encouraged – it was necessary.

Consequently, items like metal became rationed on the homefront due to the sheer volume that was needed overseas. Despite this, the British remained in good spirits. Why? During the war there was a certain patriotism attached to recycling. There were huge campaigns encouraging the donation of metal and other materials, all to increase the chances of victory.

At Hill Metal Recycling we pride ourselves on the fact that we are the leading recycler of ferrous and non-ferrous scrap metals throughout Harlow, Hertfordshire and the surrounding areas. We are affiliated with the DVLA and Environment Agency bodies and are widely qualified and experienced to appropriately handle and dispose of all types of scrap metal. We offer a 24 hour scrap collection service, including cars, for commercial and some domestic needs. To discuss the best prices you can fetch for your scrap metals, don’t hesitate to get in contact with our friendly team today!