Recycling has been a major part of the ecological movement for almost as long as there has been an ecological movement. It's popularity began with public awareness of the amount of waste going into landfills, and the popularity of the environmental movement as a whole (Rachel Carson's Silent Spring having much to do with it). Today, recycling programmes are popular not only because i this sense of ecological stewardship, but because of the market. Petroleum and woodpulp prices are high enough that using recycled materials is just as costly or more economical.
In all the efforts ecologists have been pushing (especially where i work, at the Éco-Quartier), i feel there is not enough of a push towards waste-free living. It's very simple for people to simply recycle all their waste and think that they are doing something good for the environment. Because in way recycling is not good for the environment, it is just slightly better than throwing something into a landfill. It still takes energy to transport those recyclable goods (whether they be packaging surrounding a consumer good, or a consumer good in itself) to you, and then to the recycling facility in it's after-life. Though it it less energy than producing from raw-materials, recycled good still require energy to be recycled.
It seems time that recycling should be considered common place, standard, if you will. Too often people feel it to be exceptional, as if it instantly makes them an ecologist, when in fact it is only the lesser of the two evils (evils being waste).