But all that changed after Coke began a shift to plastic bottles in the 1950s. As the waste piled up, the public began to push the company to take responsibility for it. Coke pushed back hard with a double-edged strategy attacking efforts to make the industry deal with its waste while pushing forward the message that consumers were instead to blame for the problem. Both were accomplished largely through generic-sounding organizations that worked on behalf of Coke and other soda and bottle companies while keeping their brand names out of the public eye.
In 1968, when state and federal legislation was proposed that would have made deposits on nonreturnable containers mandatory, Coke didn’t lobby against it, at least not publicly. Instead, it was the National Soft Drink Association, funded by Coke, that did the work to defeat the bill. At the same time, Keep America Beautiful was letting people know that “keeping America beautiful is your job.” Those who failed at that job were “litterbugs,” or, as the nonprofit organization made disturbingly clear in a video that year, pigs.