Pop Culture Shards From the Trash Heap of History

Memorable garbage from Woodsy to Wall-E.


Year

Trash

Treasured?

1969

Oscar the Grouch debuts on Sesame Street.

40 years later, kids still sing “I Love Trash!”

1970

Woodsy Owl implores kids to “Give a Hoot. Don’t Pollute.”

In 1997, Woodsy changes his tune: “Lend a Hand. Care for the Land.”

1977

Plastic bags first appear in grocery stores.

Everybody now: “Paper or plastic?”

1985

Garbage Pail Kids trading cards parody ubiquitous Cabbage Patch Kids dolls.

Up Chuck and Ray Decay make GPK “the gross-out phenomenon of the ’80s.”

1999

American Beauty features two-and-a-half-minute shot of floating plastic bag.

Film theorists still debating whether it’s a metaphor for a society hurtling toward ecological destruction—or just a bag.

2000

Wilson the volleyball becomes Tom Hanks’ best friend in Cast Away.

In a realistic touch, Wilson eventually washes out to sea to become turtle food.

2008

Wall-E cleans up the world by himself, one garbage cube at a time.

Spawned timeless products such as Wall-E flip-flops.

2008

As part of a $1.2 million office remodel, Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain expenses a $1,045 trash can.

Shamed into paying for the can, Thain says it was “a mistake in light of the world we live in today.”

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THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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