The effects of waste are often “invisible” because once something is thrown away, it isn’t seen again by the general public. The reality is, once waste is created it never really goes away. Throwing waste in the garbage can is only the first step in the expensive and lengthy waste disposal process. Once waste is buried in a landfill, it can sit indefinitely because without air and sunlight, decomposition is difficult. Chemicals released during decomposition can contaminate groundwater. Some waste may be burned, emitting pollutants in the process that affect air quality. 

As the regional population continues to grow, the waste we create increases. Seeking new locations for landfills is difficult because of the environmental impacts of waste sites. Regional solutions that prioritize prevention, reduction and recycling will decrease the load in our waste stream and lengthen the lifespan of existing landfills.

What is the situation…

The City of Tucson operates one landfill, Los Reales, and Pima County operates two landfills, Tangerine and Sahuarita. Pima County also operates transfer stations where waste is transported to sites outside the county. Tangerine will be closing soon, and Sahuarita has a limited capacity. This will leave the Los Reales landfill as the primary regional waste disposal site in southeastern Pima County.

In the fiscal year 06/07, almost 1.6 million tons of municipal solid waste was generated in the Tucson metro area. Although 30% was diverted from the landfill through recycling, compost and other efforts, that still leaves over 1.1 million tons of waste landfilled in one year. Click here for Tucson municipal waste information.

What are the issues…
Waste management is an expensive and lengthy process. Seeking new locations for landfills is not easy because of the environmental impacts of waste sites. Landfills disturb the landscape and most people don’t want one near their residence, so it becomes difficult to find land suitable for waste disposal. Once a landfill is established, it is important to take measures to extend its lifespan as much as possible because once a landfill reaches its capacity, new land must be converted to handle our waste stream. The Los Reales landfill has a projected lifespan of an additional 60 years. By working together regionally to increase recycling and diversion rates, we can extend the lifespan of Los Reales even further.

Once waste is buried in a landfill, it can sit indefinitely because without air and sunlight, decomposition is difficult. Some waste may be incinerated, leaving behind pollutants in the process that affect air quality. As the regional population continues to grow, Los Reales may become overtaxed, reaching the end of its lifespan sooner than projected. Reducing the amount of waste we generate and taking care to reuse and recycle will lengthen the lifespan of our existing landfill and help keep our groundwater and air clean. 

What are the programs/policies…

City of Tucson Department of Environmental Services

Environmental Services provides Tucson citizens and businesses with refuse collection and disposal.

Tucson Recycles

Weekly curbside recycling collection is offered to single family homes, duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes, and small businesses with plastic container garbage service.

Tucson Clean and Beautiful
Tucson Clean & Beautiful conducts environmental volunteer programs in waste reduction and recycling, land stewardship, urban forestry, and beautification.

Pima County/Tucson Household Hazardous Waste Program

Common household and automotive products become a hazard to the environment when disposed of improperly. Leftover quantities of these products should never be poured down the drain, put in the trash, or stored for excessive periods of time. This webpage provides information about how and where to dispose of hazardous products.

Pima County Department of Environmental Quality

Founded in 1989, PDEQ's scope includes air and water quality, hazardous waste, solid waste, waste minimization, and pollution prevention.

PDEQ Solid Waste Management Division

Pima County DEQ encourages businesses and residents to minimize waste production and reuse and recycle whenever possible. The easiest and most cost-effective way of managing any waste is not to generate it in the first place. You can decrease the amount of waste you produce by developing a few good habits.

Arizona Department of Environmental Quality

The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality's mission is to protect and enhance public health, welfare and the environment in Arizona. Established by the Arizona Legislature in 1986 in response to growing concerns about groundwater quality, ADEQ today administers a variety of programs to improve the health and welfare of our citizens and ensure the quality of Arizona's air, land and water resources meets healthful, regulatory standards.

ADEQ Waste Programs Division

The mission of the Waste Programs Division is to protect and enhance public health and the environment by reducing the risk associated with waste management, contaminated sites and regulated substances.

Recycle Arizona
Are you confused about who recycles, what can be recycled, and where it can be recycled? Recycle Arizona provides valuable information on recycling (and also solar power) in Arizona as well general recycling information.

EPA Region 9 Waste Programs

EPA's waste programs promote handling hazardous wastes safely, cleaning up contaminated land, and reducing trash.

Under the authority of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and in cooperation with our state and tribal partners, our Waste Management Division manages a hazardous waste program, an underground storage tank program, and a solid waste program that includes development of waste reduction strategies such as recycling.