recycling, the process of recovering and reusing waste products—from household use, manufacturing, agriculture, and business—and thereby reducing their burden on the environment. During World War I and World War II, shortages of essential materials led to collection drives for silk, rubber, and other commodities. In recent years the environmental benefits of recycling have become a major component of waste management programs.
For many years direct recycling by producers of surplus and defective materials constituted the main form of recycling. However, indirect recycling, the recycling of materials after their use by consumers, has become the focus of activity in the 1990s. For some time, most solid waste has been deposited in landfills or dumps. Landfills are filling up, however, and disposal of wastes in them has led to environmental problems. Also, government (which had little authority over disposal of wastes until the 1970s) now has extensive regulatory powe...