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It’s the cans!


David Parham Reynolds

David Parham Reynolds

If I say “Reynolds” does the word “aluminum” pop into your head? If I say “recycling” then I hope yelling “Recycling Rocks!” would be your response. Today we understand that the aluminum can we sip our beverages out of will most likely be recycled and formed into yet another aluminum can. Our minds are trained to look for the signs of where to deposit our recyclables, and beads of sweat form on our brow when we cannot find the “appropriate receptacle.” If this rings true for you, then I would like to give some credit to David Parham Reynolds for that response.

David P. Reynolds was the last member of his family to lead Reynolds Metals, which was founded in 1919 by his father, Richard S. Reynolds, Sr., as the U.S. Foil Company, which in 1928 became the Reynolds Metals Company. In 1937, David joined the family business as a salesman, and his first assignment was to drive a converted trailer around the nation to market aluminum.

Reynolds Metals Company Packaging Band Wagon

Reynolds Metals Company Packaging Band Wagon

David Reynolds has been credited with a number of innovations throughout his career, such as Reynolds Wrap aluminum household foil and the all-aluminum beverage can. He also initiated the first national program to reclaim and recycle aluminum cans and other aluminum packaging at the consumer level. Reynolds Metals pioneered consumer recycling of aluminum in 1967 with a pilot project in Miami, Florida. Building on the this experience, Reynolds opened a center in Los Angeles in March 1968 that offered cash on the spot for used aluminum.

Reynolds Aluminum Advertisement

Reynolds Aluminum Advertisement

In March 1988, Reynolds Metals Company’s consumer recycling operations celebrated its twentieth anniversary with much fanfare, including a visit from President Ronald Reagan to a Reynolds Metals Company plant in Richmond and a press conference and luncheon at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. Now in 2013, we are used to hearing “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle,” and the idea of recycling and using renewable sources is considered the norm and not the exception. Thanks, in part, to David P. Reynolds.

This collection is being processed thanks to a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC).

Paige Newman is an Assistant Archivist at the Virginia Historical Society.

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