The origins of the three arrows of recycling are rooted in the very first Earth Day, April 22, 1970.
The Container Corporation of America sponsored a nationwide art contest for a design that would help identify the company's products that were manufactured using content that was recycled or recyclable. The winning symbol would represent the process of recycling paper.
More than 500 young students and activists entered designs into the contest held in the Spring of 1970 in Aspen, Colorado. After being evaluated by a panel of judges, a winner was declared. A 23 year old student from the University of Southern California at Los Angeles named Gary Dean Anderson took home the first place prize of a $2500 tuition scholarship.
Gary Dean Anderson grew up in North Las Vegas, Nevada in the 1950's. Like many families during this era, Gary's family lived a thrifty lifestyle having a very recent memory of the Great Depression. This translated into very little waste and reusing most of what we now consider trash for other purposes. It wasn't out of environmental concerns, but out of financial concern. This background was perhaps an influence on Anderson's continued and growing interest in conserving resources.