Portland is replacing its downtown garbage cans with new versions that feature unique artwork. Visitors flock to Portland for its many attractions and while garbage cans aren’t usually among them, they are now. “Like, in what other city do people Instagram the garbage cans?” Portland artist Dan Stiles said. “It just doesn’t happen.”
Stiles came up with the 12 designs — from smiling Cascade Mountains to cats and dogs, donuts and ice cream — adorning 200 garbage cans all over downtown. “I think generally, it’s supposed to be a fun little slice of life — when you turn a corner, something unexpected, but still Portlandy,” Stiles said.
The project started in 2018 in Old Town. Clean and Safe, part of the Portland Business Alliance, got money from downtown business owners to spruce up and modernize the city’s outdated garbage receptacles. “They do have a larger capacity. They look a lot nicer. They are just neater, cleaner on the city streetscape,” Lisa Frisch with the Portland Business Alliance said. “This is all about doing something fun in the public space for everyone’s enjoyment.”
The can design also makes it tougher to dumpster divers, which should also keep more trash off the street. According to Clean and Safe, the city now empties downtown trash cans 7 days a week, instead of 6. For Stiles, this unique street art has raised his profile. “It’s funny because now I’m sort of Dan the Garbage Can man, which was really unexpected,” he said. And who could have expected that Portland garbage cans would become a “thing?”