I don't recall exactly when Willie became the symbol for Laredo's recycling efforts. Was it in the 90s? I really don't recall. What I do remember is a time before anyone came up with the name "Willie Bote" and the accompanying character. There was a time when "botes de basura" didn't have a name. In retrospect, that was the era when the barrios made up a sizeable part of the city. If there was a name to be given to those battered and mistreated trash cans, it might as well have been "vato". It's even easy to say : Vato, el bote. I wonder if he would even be recognized and accepted by Willie nowadays.
(You'll have to excuse the art. That's art?)