Phil and I have come to a division of responsibilities on the Trash Blog. Phil packs, drives, and writes most of the posts. I make phone calls.
Since we’ve dedicated a whole staff person to the phone, I take my responsibility seriously. And so, I began calling Keep America Beautiful when we were still in North Carolina. I called four times. Each time I was assured I’d get a call back and there would be no problem in scheduling a meeting with someone at KAB. Yet the phone never rang. So we found ourselves sitting in our car outside the KAB offices in Stamford, CT, unsure of what to do.
We decided to be brave and act like journalists. We went through the revolving doors. We asked the security guard whether we could go up to the 3rd floor to the KAB offices. He said no. We said okay. We walked out. I considered giving a little kick to the exterior of the building, just to really show them. But I was worried the security guard might scold me (or drag me off in chains while I chanted ‘we will overcome’ to Phil).
So we didn’t speak with anyone from KAB face to face. But that is probably for the best. Judging by how aggressive you all know we are, we would have really given them a piece of our minds. We are not big fans of Keep America Beautiful.
The non-profit was founded in 1953 by a group of businesses, among them PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, Anheuser-Busch, and Philip Morris. Its original mission was to reduce highway litter and ‘beautify’ America. It should not be surprising that cigarette butts, soda bottles, and beer cans form the bulk of litter in America. KAB is known for such inspiring ad campaigns as the ‘Iron Eyes Cody‘ ads, which featured an Italian man dressing up like a Native American and fake crying.
In my opinion, focusing our environmental angst on litter is just a crafty distraction. What does picking up litter and putting it into the trash can really accomplish? The garbage still exists, it just gets to sit around in the landfill rather than on the sidewalk. This suggests that trash is only a problem when it is visible – out of site, out of mind.
Secondly, KAB campaigns place the problem on individuals. As Phil would say, ‘Well that’s rich!‘ Four companies who make major profit by selling disposable packaging and products (the makings of litter) convince all of America that the soda bottles, beer cans, and cigarette butts lying across America are your problem. These companies sell convenience and blame you when the disposable packaging is still lying around. And then pat themselves on the back for telling you to be a good person and put it in landfills funded by your tax dollars (what forward thinking!).
Though KAB still feels passionately about litter (check out their inspiring photo above from a Live Green Festival), they have expanded their mission. Their newest campaign is all about the newer and sexier way we distract ourselves from everything we throw away: recycling.