Dumpsters are so ubiquitous that they are easy to miss. Hidden in plain view, if you will. Since they contain trash, we usually only notice them when they become an eyesore.

Some folks in Alaska, however, came up with the idea of using dumpsters to convey messages that promote health and peace. Here is what they did:

“We worked with the ReCycle Center that had leftover paint people had turned in. They had the paint, and we had the dumpsters. So we coordinated a system with Public Works to use the dumpsters. Anybody could adopt a dumpster. Public Works would go out and pressure-wash them. Folks got paint from the ReCycle Center and went out and painted those things. Then we got three of our biggest vendors in town, our local stores (Alaska Commercial Company, Swansons and ANICA) to donate prizes. The first year, prizes were $400 for first place, $300 for second and $200 for third. We got people who worked in some form of the art field to be our judges, and off it went.

“Public Health Nursing, school groups and even individual youth have won. Kids have adopted dumpsters in their neighborhoods. They’ve painted fireweed and little kids pouring water on the flowers, and a big happy face with teeth. Some of the college students’ work was remarkable. This idea also went to the Western Regional 4-H Leaders Forum in Washington some years ago.
“In rural Alaska, dumpsters serve a huge purpose. The Cooperative Extension Service Bethel District is 55,000 sq. miles. You think of it as pristine Alaska. There’s little worse than coming to a rural community for the first time and seeing garbage on the ground. The Cleanup/Greenup Project and the Adopt-A-Dumpster Contest have helped make a difference.
“You just don’t get it about living in ‘Bush Alaska’ until you come here!”

-Janet Athanas, Bethel Parks & Recreation Department

The creative folks of Alaska have it just about right: Involve everyone from Public Health Nursing to school kids, roll up your sleeves and generate some grant money, make it a contest, and produce something meaningful for the community at large. This must have been a really fun grant-writing experience as well.

I often fantasize about community activism. To me, this is a prime example.

The above video is from Seward, Alaska. If you do not like to look at dumpsters, just focus on the background because Alaska is art, all by itself.

The Healthy People 2010 Bethel Dumpster Art article, showing dumpsters with health messages:


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