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Addressing litter and vandalism in Portland

A man uses mechanical grabbers to put trash into a woman's trash bag while two children pick up trash in the background.
The pandemic has led to a substantial increase in the amount of trash, graffiti, and vandalism in the city. The city’s recovery will require that these issues be addressed holistically and comprehensively by engaging multiple bureaus and community organizations.
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Our habits have changed to protect each other from transmitting COVID-19 and the impacts are visible everywhere: from the increased litter from more visitors to parks and natural areas, to the overflowing trash cans with takeout containers from restaurants, to reduced services and the build-up of litter and debris on our streets.

By enhancing public trash service, expanding cleaning of public streets, and ensuring damaged businesses are boarded up and protected quickly from vandalism, the City will ensure these COVID-19 impacts are addressed. The livability and economic health of our communities and businesses depends on it.

The City of Portland is engaging multiple bureaus to boost resources. This is in addition to existing city services that help keep Portland clean. $3 million of American Rescue Plan local relief funds are being used in the following ways.

Increasing the City's capacity to address trash and graffiti

Portland Bureau of Transportation

Due to the impacts of COVID-19, our ability to maintain appropriate levels of street cleaning were drastically impacted. This project will focus on bringing the right of way back to a state of cleanliness and safety pre-COVID.

  • Increase removal of debris and bulky waste in the Right of Way (ROW) 

  • Add street sweeping crews to support more proactive ROW sweeping, removing harmful and often hazardous debris

  • Hired dedicated crew for graffiti abatement focused on city property, including signs, planters and more

Timeline: Ongoing

Funding: $1,495,000

How to apply: Not applicable

Portland Parks & Recreation - Park Trash Can Replacement and Enhancement Project

This project will create a safer, more welcoming environment for visitors to our parks, which benefits residents as well as Portland’s travel, tourism, and hospitality industry.

  • Replace or up-size 200 garbage cans in Portland parks system, which is a major draw for tourists and visitors to our community.

Timeline: To be determined

Funding: $425,000

How to apply: Not applicable

Bureau of Planning & Sustainability - Public Trash Can Program Expansion and Improvement

  • Add 150 new trash cans to North Portland, an area currently underserved by the city’s public trash can program. 

  • Replace older, smaller, trash cans in neighborhoods and business districts. 

  • Work with contractors to remove piles of debris left next to public trash cans in a timely matter as well as cleaning and repairing damaged containers.


  • Replacing older, smaller trash cans - Ongoing, 50 complete so far

  • Public trash can expansion in North Portland - Begins August 2022

  • Removing piles of trash next to trash cans - Ongoing

Funding: $765,000

How to apply: To suggest locations for North Portland public trash cans, use our survey tool.

Addressing vandalism to businesses

Portland Police Bureau

If the windows or doors of a business are broken during the commission of a crime, the Portland Police Bureau is obligated to secure the business before leaving. Currently PPB utilizes a 24/7 contractor to board-up businesses, then bills those businesses for the costs. This can lead many business owners to feel doubly victimized – having to pay for the cost of any theft or vandalism as well as these repairs.

  • Pay to quickly board up businesses when vandalism occurs, helping prevent further loss while supporting these important parts of our business community, already hurting because of COVID. 

Timeline: Starting 2022 until funds spent

Funding: $75,000

How to apply: To ensure equitable outcomes, PPB will subsidize direct costs for all businesses requiring board-ups while funding is available.  By forgoing an application process, the bureau will lower the barriers for businesses to benefit from the program.

Partnering with community organizations

AdoptOneBlock: Community Cleanup Support

This project supports neighborhood business and social success through the lenses of environmental justice and land stewardship. AdoptOneBlock empowers volunteers with technology and tools to ‘adopt’ and care for the block they live on or a block in their neighborhood. During the COVID-19 pandemic this program has been a safe avenue for people to participate in as the focus is on supporting individual volunteer efforts, outside, and not in groups.

  • Provide supplies to volunteers who remove trash and litter from public spaces including but not limited to residential neighborhoods, parks, business districts, trails, and even waterways. 

Timeline: Ongoing

Funding: $40,000

How to apply: Learn more and sign up with AdoptOneBlock.

How is this program funded?

The City of Portland has committed $3 million to this program. This money comes from the U.S. government’s 2021 American Rescue Plan local recovery funds. Portland will receive a total of $208 million from the American Rescue Plan and has until Dec. 31, 2026, to spend it. The City of Portland is spending money in three priority categories:

  • Houselessness Response and Household Stabilization
  • Small Business and Commercial District Stabilization
  • Community Health and Safety

Read more about these investments in this article: American Rescue Plan: Investing in Portland


We want to be transparent and accountable with how the City of Portland is spending American Rescue Plan money. Explore the different projects at our Rescue Plan Open Data website.