For many companies recycling is simply business. In Victoria, BC, Ellice Recycle Ltd. has made it an art form.
Ellice Recycle recently commissioned Victoria artist Jeff Maltby to paint an extensive wall mural on one of their warehouses to illustrate the history of recycling. The result of several months of planning, sketching, building prep and painting is a visually stunning art work 152 feet wide by 25 feet high. The images are Maltby’s concept and design, and the original idea for a giant mural came from Ian Maxwell, owner of Ellice’s parent company Ralmax, who was inspired after hearing several years ago about a giant mural on the walls of a weaving school in Chicago.
The mural depicts a colorful scene from the late 1800s where peddlers, rag pickers, and scrap-metal dealers mingle in the street trading rags, scrap metal, bones and paper — all popular recyclables at the end of the 19th century with immediate cash value. Rags were the mainstay of paper making for much of the 1800s, while bones and bone fat were milled and processed for fertilizer, sugar refining, lubricants, soap and more.
Although recycling and reuse of materials is believed to have a history thousands of years older than the 19th century, North American history holds several recycling milestones. In 1690, the Rittenhouse Mill in Philadelphia was the first mill to produce recycled paper in the U.S. — it used fibres from waste paper and rags. In 1898, a New York City garbage sorting facility served as the first U.S. recycling plant. During the First and Second World Wars, recycling and scrap drives were famous in supporting the war effort. From the 1950s onwards, the issue of recycling bottles and beverage containers caught widespread North American public attention. British Columbia was the first jurisdiction to legislate a deposit-return system in 1970, and Oregon followed as the first U.S. state in 1971. (Vermont actually enacted a ‘bottle bill’ in 1953 that banned the sale of beer in non-refillable bottles, but the law was later repealed under lobbying from the beer industry.)