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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