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Pandemic messes with Texas, prompts new message

September 16, 2020 - 00:00
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  • Pandemic messes with Texas, prompts new message

Even during a pandemic, it’s best to not mess with Texas.

Texas Department of Transportation officials noticed more personal protective equipment -- face masks, wipes and gloves -- on the side of roads and highways, so they called in the big guns for a new round of “Don’t mess with Texas” commercials. The celebrities featured include George Strait, Matthew McConaughey and Eva Longoria.

“Find a trash can, or keep a litter bag in your car, and wait to toss it until you get home,” Longoria said via her Instagram page. “#DontMessWith-Texas actually means don’t litter!”

“Capital Highlights” reader Anna Blythe, who reads the column in the Weimar Mercury, wrote recently that she thinks the “Don’t mess with Texas” campaign needs a reboot. She said she’s seen much more litter in recent years along Interstate 10 from Baytown to Flatonia.

“I hate to see all the trash on our roadways in our great state of Texas,” Blythe said.

About 362 million pieces of litter accumulate on Texas roads every year with items discarded from vehicles accounting for half the mess, TxDOT officials report. Those caught littering can face a fine of $500. If the tossed litter weighs more than five pounds, the fine can increase up to $2,000.

For alert readers also wanting to appear in this column, which celebrity appeared in the first “Don’t mess with Texas” commercial in 1986? Email the answer, along with your name and the newspaper in which you read the column, to

Cotton-packaging problems

Plastic is a serious problem for cotton farmers, too.

During the past three years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has found an increase of plastic in samples that likely originated from the round module wraps used to package cotton, the Texas Farm Bureau reports.

Every bale of cotton is graded by the USDA in classing offices across the country. In 2018, the USDA classing office in Corpus Christi received more plastic-contaminated bales than any other classing office in the country. When small pieces of plastic tear from the wear and embed themselves in the cotton lint, that lowers the crop’s quality and price. Roadside litter can contribute to the problem. Plains Cotton Growers CEO Steve Verett says the industry is working to fix the problem: “We have to recognize we can’t risk the reputation of being one of the premium fibers in the world. That’s what we’ve lived off of for many years in the U.S., and we can’t let this plastic wrap issue become our Achilles heel.”

Chris Cobler is a board member and past president of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas. He welcomes email at