Mosaic tile trash can, Oakland, California (JL)Mosaic Tile Trash Cans have been springing up all over Oakland. Perhaps you have seen some in your neighborhood. These colorful pieces of public art are the work of both professional and amateur artists.

Decorating the trash cans began as part of an urban beautification project in the Allendale Park neighborhood of East Oakland in 2010, which in turn was an outgrowth of the mosaic project in Maxwell Park, led by Nancy Karigaca and others, dating back to 2008. Volunteer artists such as Allendale Park artists Roberto Costa and Daud Abdullah took on an early leadership role and have continued to spread the movement onto High Street, 35th Avenue to Seminary Avenue, Foothill Boulevard, Grand Avenue, and Telegraph. Other artists including Beverly Shalom, Karen Diffrumolo, and Linda Vogel have designed some of the colorful mosaic trash cans.

By the end of 2012 there were 63 public trash cans decorated with mosaic tile art throughout Oakland. Keep Oakland Beautiful had donated over $1,100 for the project. Additional trash cans are slated for tiling in the Laurel District.

Councilwoman Libby Schaaf supports the efforts of the volunteer artists, and has been on hand to present Local Hero awards to several of the mosaic artists. Schaaf's favorite mosaic trash can design is the daisies in the shape of a peace sign, the image which now adorns her newsletter.

Artist Roberto Costa, who works full-time for the Oakland Rent Adjustment Program, was inspired to bring mosaic trash cans to Oakland after seeing decorated trash cans while on a visit to the town of Arcata. Costa's Allendale Park beautification committee includes several mosaic artists who had previously built planters which had been damaged by cars and vandals. It was decided that trash cans are a lot sturdier.

Although the artists originally planned to use only a single design, additional volunteer artists had their own creative vision for the Allendale Park trash cans. One of those was social worker Beverly Shalom, who designed several of the cans.

Maxwell Park was the next neighborhood to undergo a revitalization of their trash cans, after the success of the community in transforming the public restrooms in the park with mosaic tiles over a four year period. Artist Daud Abdullah expressed the reasons for his involvement in the Oakland Tribune "I had done a lot of community cleanup projects, I liked the idea of making a trash can look so pretty that nobody could miss it."

Abdullah has decorated more of the mosaic trash cans in Oakland than any other artist, with the majority of them in East Oakland, where Abdullah feels public art is most needed. The theme of many of Abdullah's mosaic cans are that of love and peace, and he has also taken requests, such as from Latin musician Apolinar Andrade, who wanted a musical themed trash can near his home.


Robero Costa has worked to teach neighborhood groups to decorate the trash cans in their area, including Adams Point residents who tiled the Grand Avenue trash cans pictured below. Working with tile, many of which are donated, it takes Costa approximately 20 hours to complete a single mosaic trash can. 

Trash can makeover sponsored by Old Oakland Neighbors, by Juan Lopez, New World MosaicsSince 2008, residents in other neighborhoods such as Temescal, Old Oakland and the San Pablo Avenue corridor have been inspired to bring the idea to their neighborhoods. Juan Lopez of New World Mosaics has brought his professional tile setting experience to the movement.  In the summer of 2016, Family Friendly Oakland was selected as one of 50 winners in the KaBoom Play Everywhere Challenge and was awarded funds to spread the mosaic trend to new neighborhoods by creating 10 playful mosaic trash cans at bus stops and busy intersections where children and caregivers often wait. 

Several of the volunteers have taken classes at the Institute of Mosaic Art in the Jingletown neighborhood and Snapshot Mosaics in Montclair. Both are no longer in Oakland. 

Councilmember Lynette McElhaney recently shared a video on how to Mosaic a Trash Can.

Adams Point Mosaic Tile Trash Cans

Longfellow Neighborhood: Radio-Themed Trash Cans

Mosaic tile trash can, Oakland, California// photo by ismenelikMosaic tile trash can, Oakland, California// photo by ismenelikMosaic tile trash can, Oakland, California // photo by ismenelikMosaic tile trash can, Oakland, California // photo by ismenelik

The first vintage radio themed trash can mosaic displayed above is an old brown Bakelite radio with the large center dial, two Bakelite knobs and what appears to be a leather handle on top, which were manufactured in the 1930's or 1940's by companies such as Admiral, Emerson, Motorola, Philco, Westinghouse and Zenith. The next is a 1950's plastic table top radio, and the third photo is a 1960's portable which operated on batteries as well as electricity, while the 4th photo is an antique wooden 1910's to 1920's era radio. It appears the artist was depicting American radios from shortly after the turn-of-the-century to the 1960's. JL

San Pablo Ave.

The project to mosaic the garbage cans along San Pablo Ave in West Oakland is led by local artist Lena Toney. The mosaic garbage can murals on San Pablo Ave. are made possible by grant funding from the West Oakland Mini Grant Committee and EBALDC (East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation), along with collaboration from community volunteers, the Beat 6x NCPC (Neighborhood Crime Prevention Council), the Hoover RAC (Resident Action Council), and SPARC (San Pablo Area Revitalization Collaborative). Lena assembles the mosaic panels then leads community volunteers through the installation process.


California // behind peet's coffee. photo by gksun // photo by gksun // photo by gktrees // photo by gktree with no leaves // photo by gkcrab and cup of coffee // (not a trash can, but close enough!) // photo by mk30

rainbow peace sign, female symbol, and "power" // photo by mk30peace sign // photo by mk30flower and "paz" // photo by mk30

chinese dragon // photo by mk30"keep Oakland beautiful" // photo by mk30

35th Ave. Mosaic Tile Trash Cans 


pyramid // photo by mk30pyramid // photo by mk30sun and flowers // photo by mk30tiger //photo by mk30photo by mk30Allendale School // photo by mk30"keep it clean" // photo by mk30"recycle" and earth  // photo by mk30aloe or cactus plant // photo by mk30cactus at night // photo by mk30plants, flowers, leaves // photo by mk30blue bird // photo by mk30peace sign turtle // photo by mk30heart // photo by mk30pyramid // photo by mk30

Maxwell Park

Oakland streetcar. This is near Courtland Creek Park along the route where the Leona streetcar used to run. // photo by mk30Key system symbol. This is near Courtland Creek Park along the route where the Leona streetcar used to run. // photo by mk30Oakland streetcar. This is near Courtland Creek Park along the route where the Leona streetcar used to run. // photo by mk30peace sign // photo by mk30heart // photo by mk30interlocking arms and hands // photo by mk30lizard // photo by mk30lizard // photo by mk30elephant // photo by mk30cats // photo by mk30blue bird // photo by mk30

High Street - between Foothill and MacArthur

cactus // photo by mk30chihuahua and "peace" // photo by mk30photo by mk30photo by mk30photo by mk30triangles // photo by mk30heart and flowers // photo by mk30pyramid // photo by mk30peace symbol in a heart // photo by mk30peace symbol with daisies // photo by mk30peace symbol with flowers // photo by mk30photo by mk30photo by mk30photo by mk30eye <3 oakland // photo by mk30dog // photo by mk30instruments // photo by mk30guitar and obama // photo by mk30peace symbol // photo by mk30heart // photo by mk30"oakland" and peace symbol // photo by mk30"keep oakland beautiful" // photo by mk30"paz," "unidad," and obama with fireworks // photo by mk30peace symbol // photo by mk30

Play Oakland Mosaic Trash Can Makeovers

Mosaic tile trash cans around the Main Library

Temescal mosaic tile trash cans

Old Oakland mosaic tile trash cans


Daud Abdullah, who has been documenting the cans and working on them, too for years! i think it's worth reaching out to him for this page-gk)

Links and References