Recycling in the U.S. has had a difficult path. Wanton consumption has a long history in American culture, facilitated by the impression that this was a land with unlimited resources. Even as developments began to put the lie to that philosophy, resistance continued, as many Americans seemed to feel wasteful habits an American birthright. This unrestrained consumption of stuff led to a crisis in materials waste that was reaching a breaking point by the last half of the 20th Century. Enter recycling.
Like any change, recycling had its fair share of critics trying to hamstring its implementation. Additionally, technological and logistical problems hampered progress. Gradually, however, the problems have been surmounted and now recycling is the standard. Ars Technica takes a look at what long, strange trip it has been: http://arstechnica.com/science/2015/03/recycling-in-the-us-an-off-again-on-again-love-affair/