Hi citizens … who remembers “the litterbug?”
Two generations ago, when empty bottles, cans, paper bags and cigarette butts littered our public places, sidewalks, trails, and roads as well as beaches and along the shores of rivers and streams, the litterbug campaign was the nation’s most effective message against trashing the public environment.
The litterbug cleanup campaign in the 1950s heightened our awareness about the beauty of our natural environment. Litterbugs, the trash villains, depicted the negative impacts of rubbish in public spaces much like the more recent symbolism of broken windows for neighborhood blight.
Sixty years ago, the anti-litter campaign was so effective that no one but no one wanted to be called a litterbug. Brigades of volunteers walked along roads to bag trash. Civic clubs adopted a highway. City and state leaders passed fines for littering. It was not popular to be a litterbug.
Over time, the litterbug public broadcast message for a clean environment faded. Today, generations later, litterbugs have returned in full force. Our highways, lined with plastic bags waving from trees and gutters full of paper, plastic, Styrofoam and old rugs, are mini dumps for rubbish.
Rubbish accumulation in public places sends a clear message that despite waste management efforts, we are losing the war against trash. Rubbish on our roads declares the litterbug is alive.
In this age of pinched pennies, dedicating tax dollars to cover the irresponsibility of a litterer is not hip. Ignoring throwaway rubbish in public places is in vogue.
Government maintenance staff throw up their hands in exasperation as rubbish grows in public spaces. “What to do, what to do?” Corporations that package the stuff we buy for convenient snacks march on, giving us more trash to throw away.
The word, litterbug, was first coined in 1947. Perhaps it is time to bring back the that campaign. Radio, cable networks, social media and newspapers have public service components. These important public education networks can to remind us again that not all trash is beautiful and that the litterbug villains are no longer welcome to trash the world around us.
It is time to recycle that message.