Rubbish Disposal History in Melbourne 1800s

The gold rush during the 1850s brought many more people to Melbourne.  And with the influx of people came an increase in rubbish.  Pretty soon the city couldn’t deal with it’s garbage.  It was an offence to dump glass, filth, dirt, rubbish or other matter of a similar nature according the Police (Town and country) Act 1854, however the city’s streets were piling up with refuse, including dead animals. Rubbish was being dumped in people’s backyards, in the streets and on vacant blocks of land.

Fitzroy was the first municipality in Melbourne to establish a regular domestic rubbish collection. This was optional, residents could choose whether they wanted their rubbish picked up by the council. Recycling had already begun with Marine Store Dealers and Scrap Merchants recycling common items such as glass, metal and rags.  The city of Melbourne gave residents free ‘iron dust boxes’ in 1880 encouraging them to leave them in their backyards for scavengers to empty.

Rubbish dumps appeared in many of Melbourne’s recreational spots such as the Carlton Gardens, Albert Park Lake, the esplanade at Williamstown and St Kilda beach. Quarries and disused clay holes were also used as dumps.  In the mid 1880s incinerators were built to dispose of rubbish across much of Melbourne. In 1890 James Paul Whelan set up a cartage company, which went on to become a demolition business selling the second hand material from the sites, and becoming the famous Whelan The Wrecker and thus the Whelan family entered the recycling business.


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