5 Anti-Litter Ads from Around the World (Videos)

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:




Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson5 years ago

i liked them

Kevin Crab
Kevin Crab5 years ago

Great to see an Australian ad in your picks - I'm all for protecting the environment and keepin' it beautiful! All my sea creature friends thrive in a clean ocean-makes me sad for how people pollute it:((.
I'm an optimitic crustacean though and am calling on more young Australians to create ads to inspire people to stop littering. Check out some of the old Aussie ads on my YouTube Channel ( http://www.youtube.com/user/Kevinthecrab) or see my facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/Kevin.the.crab)-would love to hear from you! Kevin the Crab

Amber Martingale
Angela Roquemore5 years ago

My parents were still talking about the Iron Eyes Cody ad in the early 80's!

Lika S.
Lika P5 years ago

Keeping a green planet is everyone's responsibility. Individuals, family units, corporations large and small... We can't expect our planet to fix garbage and pollution on so many levels.

Michael C.
Michael C5 years ago

Michael P. What you have described is "deflection," we are told to keep your eye on the Big Story, American's production of garbage, thus litter.
While you keep your eye on the litter, guess what the corporations have been doing in your name, pollution on a corporate level, usually, in the end, the taxpayer cleans up the mess.

While the true intentions of the founding corporation remain a subject of debate, they would, in the end lose their grip on the message or at least of it...and the People end up being the winner, with cleaner roads, streets, parks, along with a new awareness about corporate greed vs need.

Michael P.
Michael Poremba5 years ago

Keep America Beautiful, the group behind the impactful "Crying Indian" ad is documented as an industry front group. They were reportedly established to serve the industry's interests around issues regarding waste management. For example, laws against single-use bottles which impacted these companies.
It's possible to conclude that the products and packing companies behind this organization benefited from these campaigns by redirecting the blame for litter away from the producers of single use items to the consumers who failed to dispose of them. The collosal waste from packaging still exists and its widely accepted as normal--now the waste stream is just better managed. Witness the Great Pacific Garbage Patch to see our waste problem is still very much alive. Question is will the responsiblity to solve this problem still rest with citizens (a.k.a. "consumers"), or can we rightfully saddle corporations with responsibility for the wasteful product designs they are pushing us? We need to see the packaging industry more honestly as spewing pre-consumer garbage and creating more of a problem for the ecology than they solve through convenience.

Aletta Kraan
Aletta Kraan5 years ago

Noted , thanks !

Bonnie K.
Bonnie Kisko5 years ago

I, too, remember this add. It was very impactful!

Susan T.
Susan T5 years ago

I remember when the Crying Indian ad was first aired in 1971 - I found it a moving ad. Certainly it would have been smarter for the producers to use an ACTUAL NATIVE AMERICAN ACTOR but it's still a good message and effectively delivered.

Jordyn Seri
Jordyn Seri5 years ago

I really liked this article, the crying indian one is my favorite