Keep America Beautiful

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This article is part of the Tobacco portal on Sourcewatch funded from 2006 - 2009 by the American Legacy Foundation.

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This article is part of the Center for Media & Democracy's spotlight on front groups and corporate spin.

Keep America Beautiful, Inc. is a national non-profit group that promotes "engaging individuals to take great responsibility for improving their local community environments." [1]

KAB is a network of affiliate organisations including towns, cities, counties and states that develop and implement local and regional programs.

KAB's campaigns consistently promote the idea that consumers are responsible for litter and recycling.

Documents Contained at the Anti-Environmental Archives
Documents written by or referencing this person or organization are contained in the Anti-Environmental Archive, launched by Greenpeace on Earth Day, 2015. The archive contains 3,500 documents, some 27,000 pages, covering 350 organizations and individuals. The current archive includes mainly documents collected in the late 1980s through the early 2000s by The Clearinghouse on Environmental Advocacy and Research (CLEAR), an organization that tracked the rise of the so called "Wise Use" movement in the 1990s during the Clinton presidency. Access the index to the Anti-Environmental Archives here.

Corporate Funders of KAB

Philip Morris was a founding member of KAB in 1956.[1] KAB distributed Vantage (cigarette brand) pocket ashtrays on behalf of R.J. Reynolds during 1996 in exchange for $25,000.[2]

Keep America Beautiful's famous 1971 Ad Campaign, featuring Iron Eyes Cody, the "Crying Indian"

Keep America Beautiful receives millions of dollars a year from dozens of corporations who either directly or through their trade associations are actively engaged in lobbying against environmental legislation such as bottle bills. The KAB website lists major corporate sponsors[2]; some of the bigger funders include companies like PepsiCo, Philip Morris, Waste Management, Anheuser-Busch, Georgia-Pacific, Coca-Cola, Home Depot, McDonald's. Major PR and advertising firms also contribute money to KAB including DDB Worldwide, Omnicom Group, BBDO Worldwide, Fleishman-Hillard, and Ogilvy & Mather. [3]

Bottle Bill Opponents and Supporters Alike Fund KAB

The Container Recycling Institute reports: "The most outspoken opponents to bottle bills are almost exclusively the big-name beverage producers. The Coca-Cola Company, PepsiCo, Anheuser Busch, and their bottlers and distributers fight deposit laws at every turn. Retail grocers and liquor storeowners also oppose deposit laws, and in recent years, waste haulers and owners of materials recovery facilities who want the revenue from valuable aluminum cans have joined the opposition. ... Enter Keep America Beautiful. Though their name paints a rosy picture of environmentalism, Keep America Beautiful (KAB) promotes landfilling and incineration of waste, and refuses to accept bottle bills as a viable method of litter reduction. Why? Because KAB was founded by the very industries that find bottle bills a threat!" [4]

Several corporations supporting bottle bills also provide support to Keep America Beautiful including Owens-Illinois and Whole Foods, Nestle Waters,the Aluminum Association, Novelis, and ARCO Aluminum.


Keep America Beautiful was founded in 1953 by group of businessmen from the beverage and packaging industries who were concerned that government would make them responsible for solving the litter problem by regulating their industries. Howard Chase was an early PR consultant to KAB and in the 1970's went on to become vice president and assistant to the chairman for public affairs of the American Can Company. [3]

KAB's first campaign theme was “Every Litter Bit Hurts” and was supported by major environmental organisations.

In the early 1970s a new campaign was launched with the theme “People Start Pollution, People Can Stop It”. Environmentalists were not happy with the campaign theme and wanted KAB to focus on making producers responsible for packaging waste, but KAB's industry backers refused.

In 1974 KAB publicly opposed California's proposed bottle bill. However due to reactions that the organisation was self-serving, they decided to drop any official position on the issue. KAB changed their approach to promote alternatives to bottle bills instead.

In 1975 KAB introduced a Clean Community System campaign which encouraged local communities to clean up their litter and had the effect of keeping interest in bottle bills at bay.

In 1976, more than a dozen environmental and citizens groups quit KAB after a member of the board of directors called for the organisation to oppose four upcoming bottle bills.

In the 1980s the Clean Community System expanded and became more focussed on encouraging people to recycle.

In the 1990s there was a new campaign theme “Let’s not waste the 1990’s” which purported to support a sensible strategy to managing waste with source reduction, recycling, composting, incineration and sanitary landfilling. In practice, however, the campaign did not attempt to implement any real methods or targets for achieving improvements.

In 1999 KAB introduced the "Great American Cleanup" campaign, where volunteers are organised to clean up their communities.


KAB has a significant number of corporate sponsors. It's strongest support comes from beverage and packaging industries but includes a wide range of industries. [5]

KAB's corporate sponsorship page promotes the benefits to corporations: "Investing in Keep America Beautiful today pays dividends in the future by empowering millions of volunteers every year to take individual responsibility". [6]

Current activities

KAB describes its focus as being on "litter prevention", "waste reduction" and "beautification and community improvement". They maintain an approach of keeping responsibility with consumers and promoting alternatives that have the effect of keeping bottle bills at bay. Although the national body does not officially oppose bottle bills, some of its affiliates do.

Their annual "Great American Cleanup" attracts millions of volunteers.

In recent years KAB have launched a cigarette butt litter prevention program with support of Philip Morris. As part of this they have undertaken a significant public service announcement campaign stressing the fact that cigarette butts are a significant pollutant and that the chemicals leaching from them into our soils and waterways are a severe environmental concern.

Other SourceWatch resources

Contact details

Keep America Beautiful
1010 Washington Boulevard
Stamford, CT 06901
Tel: 203.323.8987
Fax: 203.325.9199
Web site:
General Questions: info AT

External links


  1. B. Lyons, Keep America Beautiful, Inc. Keep America Beautiful, Inc. Letter. June 28, 2000. Bates No. 2081618448
  2. C.W. Russell, Keep America Beautiful, R.W. Powers, R.J. Reynolds This letter of agreement will serve as our contract regarding the contribution by the VANTAGE Brand to Keep America Beautiful, Inc. Letter/contract. 1 pp. March 15, 1996. Bates No. 516572867
  3. "Obituary: Chase, Father of Issues Management, Dead at 1993", The Holmes Report, August 25, 2003, p. 10.