Despite decades of work to stop it, littering is still a pollution problem in the U.S. and around the world.
While litter cleanups are important, the best way to reduce litter is to change the behavior of litterers. This often involves showing litter, and those who create it, as uncool, unclean and just plain gross. Through the years, many public service announcements – some funny, some sad, some terrifying – have been created around that messaging. Here are just five from the U.S. and around the world.
The granddaddy of all anti-littering ads is the famous Crying Indian. The ad was first broadcast on Earth Day in 1971, when environmental awareness was coming to the fore. Though there has been much controversy around the actor (it is believed that Iron Eyes Cody was actually Italian American, not Native American), the ad remains powerful and moving today and has been widely credited with raising awareness and action for the environment.
Up next: It’s all about the wildlife.
In Australia, there have been many ads with differing approaches to making littering distasteful. This 30 second spot focuses on the deadly effects of cigarette butt litter (a major component of litter in the US and around the world) on Australian wildlife:
Up next: David Lynch goes civic minded
One of the weirder anti-littering public service announcements is this 1991 gem by creep-you-out director David Lynch; the photography director, Frederick Elmes, is known for his cinematography on such works as “Blue Velvet,” “Eraserhead” and “Wild at Heart”:
Up next: Grossing out teenagers in the name of pollution prevention.
Reaching out to teens around behavior change is particularly important and challenging. Two ads equate the gross habit of littering with general unattractiveness – ie., the litterer won’t get the girl, as in this ad from Dublin, Ireland:
Litter is an issue wherever people gather. Fighting litter in Nunavut, the remote and sparsely populated federal territory in northern Canada, takes a similar approach to the Dublin example: