It’s hard to believe it’s been 27 years since musicians like Stevie Ray Vaughan and the Fabulous Thunderbirds started showing up on TV and radio with songs to discourage littering as part of the Don’t mess with Texas campaign.
The campaign was a big success and grew into a household slogan in Texas, and even beyond. But at the same time, the state’s population has grown (at a pace of 1,000 people per day currently), and a younger generation of Texans doesn’t necessarily relate the slogan with its anti-littering message.
That’s why the Texas Department of Transportation on Tuesday launched a makeover of Don’t mess with Texas, including a special emphasis on the iconic red, white, and blue trash barrels—the same cans that first showed up in early commercials with the likes of Randy White and Ed “Too Tall” Jones of the Dallas Cowboys.
“We want to remind all Texans and visitors that trash belongs in a trash can and not along our roadways,” says Phil Wilson, TxDOT’s executive director. “That’s why trash barrels are playing a key role in the re-launch of Don’t mess with Texas, our state’s most critical and successful anti-litter campaign.”
TxDOT held a press conference on the State Capitol grounds to introduce the makeover, complete with dancing trashcans (performed by Austin comedy group Esther’s Follies), a new anti-littering song performed by local musician Shakey Graves, and penguins from SeaWorld San Antonio.
The department plans to distribute more than 300 branded trash barrels across the state in the coming months, including at state Travel Information Centers, to drive home the message of the Don’t mess with Texas campaign. Let’s hope people get the point and start curtailing the estimated 1.1 billion pieces of litter thrown each year along Texas roadways.