Keep America Beautiful
The Keep America Beautiful Campaign focuses on anti-litter campaigns but ignores the potential of recycling legislation, reducing production of disposable commodities, or minimising packaging. It seeks to attribute litter and waste disposal problems to individual’s acting irresponsibly and admits no corporate responsibility for the problem. Keep America Beautiful opposes bottle deposit legislation and has sought to discredit mandatory recycling with television advertisements, reports and brochures which emphasise the cost and limits of recycling.
KAB began in 1953 after Vermont passed legislation to ban disposable beverage containers. KAB sought to blame problems associated with the waste arising from disposable items on thoughtless disposal by individual consumers rather than the manufacture of the items. No other state has since passed such legislation banning siposable packaging.
Keep America Beautiful advertisement from the 1970s
The Keep America Beautiful Campaign receives millions of dollars per year from “some 200 companies that manufacture and distribute the aluminium cans, paper products, glass bottles and plastics that account for about a third of the material in US landfills” including Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, 3M and Scott Paper. It is also funded by waste companies that landfill and incinerate hazardous wastes and prefer the focus of waste disposal to be on the tidy disposal of litter. The Campaign’s directors include representatives of Philip Morris, Mobil Chemical and Procter and Gamble and PR giant Burson-Marsteller. In the past it has been coordinated by the public relations director of Union Carbide.
Its current list of corporate sponsors shows that Pepsico, PhilipMorrisUSA and WM Waste Management gsve over half a million each in 2009.
KAB has close ties with the tobacco industry. It was cofounded by Philip Morris Vice President J.C. Bowling and has been funded by the four major US tobacco companies. Despite its focus on litter, it avoids the issue of cigarette butt litter despite the environmental damage that these butts do with their toxic residues. Walter Lamb, founder of CigaretteLitter.org noted in 2001: 'Visitors to the KAB website will find no information regarding the most frequently littered consumer product in the world. They will find no information concerning the nonbiodegradable nature of cigarette butts, the toxic chemicals which they contain, or the numerous costly and sometimes deadly fires attributed to cigarette litter.' KAB now has a cigarette litter prevention program funded by Philip Morris.
KAB uses the services of PR giant Burson-Marsteller.
KAB has a paid public relations staff, a flashy web site, and a well-oiled specialty products division that sells brochures, coloring books, trash bags, pocket ashtrays and other litter-related merchandise.
KAB's current site does not include a list of sponsorts but notes that Hungry Jack's is the main sponsor of Keep Australia Beautiful Week.
In 1998 Keep Australia Beautiful's website stated, "Keep Australia Beautiful is committed to ensuring that Mitsubishi Motors Australia is recognised as a concerned and responsible corporate citizen". The patrons at the time included: Patron-in-Chief, the Governor General (Sir William Deane), Prime Minister John Howard, Deputy Prime Minister, Tim Fischer, opposition leader Kim Beazley, and Democrats leader Cheryl Kernot.
Keep Australia Beautiful has councils for each state and in New South Wales Keep Australia Beautiful has been supported by the beverage industry, the Environment Council, the Association of Liquid Paper Board Carton Manufacturers and various waste, water, tourism organisations.
The 2009 Keep Australia Beautiful National Litter Index, funded by state and territory governments and the National Packaging Covenant Industry Association, claimed to show that people in Victoria reduced their litter more than those in South Australia, where there is a container deposition scheme. This was used by the food packaging industry to argue against a national deposit scheme for beverage container.
Articles critical of KAB:
- Walter Lamb, 'Keep America Beautiful: Grassroots Non-Profit or Tobacco Front Group?', PR Watch, Volume 8, No. 3, 3th Quarter 2001.
- Ariane Conrad, 'Litterbug World', Alternet, 1 April 2005.