I started recycling when I was still in high school. (I graduated in 1965.) The local Audubon Society had a monthly paper and can recyling drive. You notice that plastics were not included and that is because there was relatively little plastic circulating back then. It is hard to imagine time before plastics but it is true--milk was in glass bottles or waxed cartons, shampoo came in a glass bottle, tooth paste or powder in a metal container. I wonder how many pounds of materials I have recycled over the years--tons I am sure.
We still recycle--paper, metal, glass (not much), and plastic. We do not have curbside recycling out in the country where I live so we have two large (plastic) trash cans--one for plastics and one for paper--and a (plastic) bin for metal. All the recycling goes into these containers and once a month I take it all in to the recycling center in Houston. They also take any electronics we need to dispose of as well as used motor oil. It is not a lot of trouble because it is simply a habit we have done for decades.
Over the last year or so I have been using my own tote bags when I go shopping rather than use plastic bags from the stores. There are two problems that I have encountered with this--the first is remembering to take them inside the store with me, so many times I don't think about bags until I am in the check out line and my totes are still in the van. Have to work on that. The second problem is some of the checkers are stymied by someone wanting to use their own bags. They want to put the groceries in the usual plastic bag and then put the plastic bag into my tote. I suppose they think of me as a little old lady in her dotage that must be accomodated.
Reusing items is the second leg of reducing the amount of garbage that we generate. I find it so simple to reuse printer paper--just turn it over and print on the other side. It is very seldom that I need a good copy printed only on one side. Clothing or household items that I don't want or use are dropped off at the Goodwill center. Another way to reuse is composting. Actually most of our food waste goes to our local raccoon population which is fine with me. I love to see Mama Raccoon leading her brood of babies to our goodies.
The third leg is simply reducing the amount of stuff that we buy. I am by nature and necessity a frugal person. I believe in planning ahead, giving thought to what is needed, and buying quality that will last. I don't like clutter and the easiest way to be clutter-free is to not buy the stuff in the first place.
That's how we reduce our garbage output--Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Nothing new, just habits.