Washington, D.C., Brings Art to Its Recycling Trucks

Fifteen trucks were wrapped this year.

Fifteen trucks were wrapped this year. Washington D.C. Department of Public Works


Connecting state and local government leaders

The District of Columbia began debuting the newly wrapped trucks in July.

WASHINGTON — Recycling customers in the nation's capital may notice a brighter view on pick-up day, as the D.C. Department of Public Works debuts 15 trucks wrapped in local artists’ murals.

The "Designed to Recycle" project, a collaboration with the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities, launched in 2015 as a way to highlight the importance of recycling, jazz up District streets and support local artists.

“Through the Design to Recycle project, we are able to support and showcase the talent of our local artists, further enhance the visibility of the city’s recycling efforts, and add to the creative landscape of the District in all eight wards,” Angie Gates, the commission's interim director, said in a statement.

That first year, the project wrapped 10 trucks—nine with designs from local artists and a tenth with a recycling-themed mural designed by local youth. The second run includes 15 trucks wrapped with new designs, plus re-wrapping of five trucks whose designs needed a refresh. The city began debuting the new designs in July and will unveil the final truck next week.

(Courtesy D.C. Department of Public Works)

The new artworks include a bold floral pattern, an elephant in desert tones and a graphic take on roses, among others. Each truck contains information about the artist.

To be eligible for inclusion, artists had to at least 18 years old, be legal residents of D.C. for at least a year prior to applying and have a permanent D.C. address. Designs could not incorporate “graphic design elements of a company, brand, entity, political or partisan symbol, an individual” or depict offensive language or nudity, according to the submission guidelines.

(Courtesy D.C. Department of Public Works)

Since its debut, the project has sparked conversations between district workers and the people they serve, according to Nancee Lyons, a public affairs specialist for the D.C. Department of Public Works.

“When I speak to our drivers, one of the things they really like about driving the trucks is that it helps to initiate a conversation between them and the community. They really look forward to it,” Lyons said. “They get lots of questions about the artwork and the designs. It helps to open up a conversation. They like that people are talking to them beyond just, ‘You missed my trash can.’”

That connection is an important facet of the project, said Chris Shorter, the department’s director.

“Art has been a powerful tool in engaging residents with our agency’s work,” Shorter said in a statement. “The wrapped trucks forge a connection between our sanitation teams and the neighborhoods we serve, and our drivers are excited to drive them. We hope these moving pieces of art inspire citizens to remember the vital role they play in the city’s sustainability efforts.”

View the designs here.

Kate Elizabeth Queram is a Staff Correspondent for Government Executive’s Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.

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