Houston’s Garbage Trucks Are Now Covered In Awesome Art

In a campaign to promote its controversial new recycling program, the city is making some of its vehicles a little easier on the eyes.

If you’ve been in Houston recently, you may have noticed an unusual brand of municipal vehicle: recycling trucks that look nothing like conventional recycling trucks. Covered in art from local artists, the designs are part of dual campaigns to encourage more recycling and get more art into places where the public can see it.


“It’s trying to bring art to the people as well as having a good message on recycling,” says Tommy Gregory, at the Houston Arts Alliance, which collaborated with the City’s Solid Waste Management Department (SWMD) on the project. “Having artists doing work with city departments, it integrates arts and designs into the infrastructure of the city.”

Green Dream, 2014, Pablo Gimenez-Zapiola.Marc Newsome

The six designs include “Forest for the Trees,” by Troy Stanley, which incorporates photos of wood scraps (the truck looks fully made of wood), and “Green Dream” by Pablo Gimenez-Zapiola, which features extra large pictures of fig ivy. The most topical is “Mad Tax Beyond the Astrodome” by Aaron Muñoz, which imagines recycling the now-defunct stadium at a time when the city is still debating what to do with it.

“It’s funny to attack a real issue an ask what we’re doing with this monument to the city of Houston if every building we make we raze it,” says Gregory.

Houston’s SWMD is currently rolling out a controversial plan to bring recycling to every curbside in the city. Unlike most cities that ask residents to separate trash before collection, it’s scooping it up as a “single-stream” and separating it at a dedicated facility–a process some critics contend is expensive and unworkable.

Still, the trucks should help promote recycling, whatever its form. “The artwork displayed on the recycling trucks helps draw public attention to the fact that these trucks are utilized in ‘repurposing’ materials that would otherwise be considered trash,” says SWMD director Harry Hayes, in a statement.


About the author

Ben Schiller is a New York staff writer for Fast Company. Previously, he edited a European management magazine and was a reporter in San Francisco, Prague, and Brussels.