The city of San Jose Public Art Department and the Environmental Services Department are taking that a step further and by turning one man's trash can into a canvas.
Santa Clara Poet Laureate Mike McGee teamed up with the city and created a poetry competition, for middle and high school students focused on bringing awareness to the environment and litter.
Hundreds of poems were submitted by students, but only 10 were ultimately selected as winners.
The poems were then painted on 500 trash cans in San Jose by artist Carlos Perez to create the project known as "litter-ature".
San Jose residents, keep an eye out for these awesome works of art around town! #LitteratureSJ is a project put on by the city that’s helping beautify downtown with artwork on trash cans featuring poems written by area students. pic.twitter.com/bB82DkhbrG— Dustin Dorsey (@DustinABC7) April 12, 2019
"It kind of blew my mind to see such intelligent work from such young people," McGee said. "It was work that you would get from someone who has already seen the planet."
The works of art can be seen across seventeen business districts throughout Downtown San Jose.
"To have such young people remind us emotionally what this means to them and to remind us before they're even adults is really beautiful," McGee said.
"It's inverting the notion of education," San Jose Public Art Director Michael Ogilvie said. "Instead of adults educating the youth, they're educating us. Hopefully, it will inspire people to properly dispose of their litter."
For McGee, poetry is considered to be a life-saver.
He hopes this project can use poetry to capture the attention of audiences in San Jose and spread the word about the environment and poetry itself.
"When you see these new public litter cans with poems on them, stop and read them," McGee said. "Take a picture of them, tag them, show people out there that these poems are here in San Jose. They're all over San Jose. Use that as a catalyst to write your own."
You can read the top-20 poems, submitted as part of the "Litter-ature" competition, here.