Did people recycle thirty years ago?

Yes, people have been recycling for centuries. Prior to the twentieth century, there wasn't much to recycle until the canned food industry began to grow. Most consumer products were made from natural materials that were easy to reuse and recycle. When I was a kid, there was a 'rag man' who rode around the neighborhoods collecting used clothing and linens that were sold to the paper industry. My mother saved her cooking fat in cans and sold it to the local soap factory. The ashes from the coal stove and fireplace were saved to spread on the icy sidewalks. It wasn't until after WW2 that consumer goods flourished, made from materials that were difficult to reuse and recycle. In the 1970s, my town opened a recycling center. We saved our cans, glass (which had to be sorted by color), and paper (which had to be bundled in flat stacks) and had to drive them to the recycle center. By the end of the 70s, the center closed down because they could not earn enough from the materials to pay for the operation. Since the 1960s, I have washed all but the most stubbornly dirty laundry in cold water and still hang to dry whatever I can. There has always been a core group of people who were mindful of the resources they were using and made every effort to consume moderately and repurpose what is possible. They used to call us 'nuts' and 'fanatics'.