Talking Tucson trash – and those who help clean it up

While we may occasionally run across a used diaper in the supermarket parking lot or a wayward plastic bag billowing from a cactus, Tucson is overall pretty clean.

Photo Ryn Gargulinski

Photo Ryn Gargulinski

Sure, the city has its stenches – especially that garbage can by the drinking fountain near the Rillito River Walk Park – but at least its contained to a garbage can.

One of the reasons behind Old Pueblo’s pristine nature is the Tucson Clean and Beautiful projects.

Since I’ve received three recent news releases about folks cleaning stuff up, it’s only fair to give them some recognition.

Kudos to these folks who are part of the Adopt-A-Park and Public Areas Program:

CITI employees – Workers from this financial services company have been cleaning up the 2-mile stretch of Rita Road near Interstate 10 and their offices at 9060 S. Rita Road. Their efforts, which began this spring, will be recognized at a ceremony at their offices at 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 29.

Kino School – These students, who range in age from kindergarten to high school, took on Children’s Memorial Park, 4851 N. 15th Place, in September of last year. Their efforts will be honored at a ceremony and picnic at the park starting at 11:15 a.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 30.

Sahuaro Girl Scout Council, Starcatcher Service Unit – These do-gooders have spent the past two years maintaining their adopted Linden Park, 300 S. Desert Ave. They were honored this past weekend.

Thanks! for helping to keep Tucson Clean and Beautiful.

Photo Ryn Gargulinski

Photo Ryn Gargulinski

Now if we could just get someone to adopt the garbage can by the Rillito River walk, we’d be set. And there still are a few other areas that need work.

Shockingly, some apartment complexes don’t even offer recycling programs.

Other folks don’t seem to care about where they chuck their trash. I’ve seen piles of cigar butts, weeds – and even banana peels – simply hurled over backyard fences into an alleyway.

Some trim their trees then throw all the branches in a wash.

And where does that mattress come from that always seems to end up in a riverbed?

Another poor trash habit is from folks who gingerly pick up their dog waste, scoop it neatly into a plastic bag, tie the bag shut – and then promptly throw the bag on the side of the path.

One man went all out not too long ago. He collected bags and bags of dog waste near the Rillito River walk – then threw them all in a pile under one of those signs that says it’s the law to clean up after your dog.

With that much time on his hands, he should have volunteered for a Tucson Clean and Beautiful project. Or at least thrown the dog doo in the trashcan, since the can already reeks.

In addition to the garbage can stench, two other smells around town seem to waft from the depths of hell.

The first is whatever sludge plant is churning out the stench that reaches a far south as Prince Road and Interstate 10.

The second is the mystery aroma that hits you in the face like a moldy, wet sponge the minute you get to the pinnacle of Veteran’s Memorial Highway overpass.

Not to leave you on a sour note, the litterbugs and dog doo man are offset by the more than 125 locations around town that have been adopted and cleaned up by the slew of volunteers.

If you want to learn more or volunteer yourself, check out or call 791-3109.


The mystery mattress/Ryn Gargulinski

The mysteriously appearing mattress/Ryn Gargulinski

What do you think?

Are you a litterbug? Do you yell at litterbugs when you see them littering?

What’s the worst example of littering you’ve seen?

How do you contribute to keeping Tucson clean and beautiful?


About Rynski

Writer, artist, performer who specializes in the weird, wacky and sometimes creepy. Learn more at
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23 Responses to Talking Tucson trash – and those who help clean it up

  1. radmax says:

    Mornin’ Rynski! Ah, that beautiful aroma wafting from Camino Del Cerro waste plant, seems to permeate everything in it’s ‘fallout’ area. Nice way to say ‘Welcome’ to our friends from up north. The clean-up programs and all the volunteers are to be commended for their efforts to keep the trash that the careless toss under control. Pretty sad  hiking into a pristine area and finding a water bottle, plastic bag or a used diaper…pack it in, pack it out.

  2. Rynski says:

    mornin’ radmax! so THAT’S the wonderful smell’s origin – that’s quite a long stretch for the stench to travel, no?
    i agree the volunteers are awesome – and water bottle discarders are not.
    the used diapers are the worst. surprisingly, perhaps, a trash study found used diapers only make up about 1 percent of trash in landfills – well, maybe that’s because the rest are on nature paths or supermarket parking lots. i saw one in a mt. lemmon parking lot this weekend.

    • radmax says:

      How considerate of them! Probably a trash can 10 feet away…

    • azmouse says:

      Hello kids!

      I used to go to Apache Lake all the time when my kids were younger. We always saw dirty diapers laying around, of all things….
      Hopefully, people are getting better about it and it isn’t like it was when the poor Native-American was standing on the side of the road and the hapless folks threw  trash at his feet, producing that ever heartwrenching tear.

      • Rynski says:

        hiya AZMouse!
        that awful tear!!
        we saw dirty diapers on the san diego shoreline, too. why are folks so crappy (pun intended) about getting rid of dirty diapers?
        another trash peeve is chewing gum. i heard in some countries, chewing gum in public is illegal. this way it cuts down on it being thrown all over the street.

      • radmax says:

        …or under your table at a restaurant! Yuck!

      • Rynski says:

        ewwww! and then you always accidentally stick your knee in it…

      • Andrew Ulanowski says:

        In Singapore the sentence for chewing gum is a beating by a martial arts master with a bamboo cane across the buttocks. I have heard that it is EXCRUTIATINGLY painful.
        Owww, makes me want to wear extra underwear just thinking about it . . .

      • Rynski says:

        …makes me want to never chew gum! i once had a filling wrenched out by gum so i’m not big on it to begin with…

      • radmax says:

        Hi az! Farley sez that dude is an Italian! Still, it should be a capital offense for littering, death sentence for diapers. Who the hell wants to pick up someone elses kids’ crap!…for cryin’ out loud!

      • azmouse says:

        Yes, I heard he wasn’t a real Native-American, but that image did the trick when I was young.

        Diapers are the number one worst violation when littering. Glass products have to be number two.

  3. Andrew Ulanowski says:

    Hi all y’all,
    2 words: Cigarette butts!
    Yay to the volunteers for their hard work!

  4. Jennatoolz says:

    Being a someone who works in the waste industry, I get to see first hand (sometimes too up close and too personal) the ungodly amount of waste we humans can create. I work at just one transfer station (aka dump, but different than a landfill) and each day there is about 250-350 TONS of trash brought in by various garbage companies. And this is just at my site…there are a few other sites in Tucson collecting the same amount or more. That’s a lot of trash, guys! At least the stuff that makes it here is the stuff that someone was kind enough to think about where they were putting their trash…in its proper place, rather than on the ground. 🙂

    I cringe when I see people litter. And as for those abandoned diapers in a parking lot, that also makes me cringe…especially when my foot is greeted by one as soon as I step out of my car. 😛

    • Rynski says:

      wow-ee! that’s a lotta junk. i would love to take a tour of the place one day. it would make for a stellar slide show, i think.
      what’s the grossest thing you’ve seen? did you ever find a body?

      • Jennatoolz says:

        Nope, no bodies so far! And I think the entire trash pile is the grossest thing I’ve ever seen, lol. The trash pile is where all the garbage trucks dump their trash…and its a very large pile.
        I did hear a pretty gnarly story of one of the garbage truck drivers I work with. He was servicing a dumpster, and a bag fell out in front of his truck. When he went to pick it up, the bag was ripped open and he saw what he thought was a human foot! Poor guy!! It turns out it was bear remains, and the dumpster he was servicing was near a taxidermy. By the way, its NOT okay to throw away animal remains in the trash can…

      • radmax says:

        I saw a guy unload a rigor-mortified horse at a landfill one time…caused quite a ruckus, I think it is illegal.

      • Jennatoolz says:

        Yikes! What was that guy thinking?! That’s definitely illegal…one would think he would know where to take that horse to properly dispose of it. A landfill (or even a dumpster) is not a burial ground for animals of any kind. 😛

      • koreyk says:

        Years back I saw a rigored horse at the old Catalina landfill.  Kids were throwing rocks at it, trying to make it explode.

        This type of dumping probably happens a lot more than one would imagine, especially out in the open desert.

  5. Suzanne Mazoff says:

    I guess “trash” is loose everywhere, even here in the Catskill Mountains of NY. I live on a seasonal road, in the mountains, and we love the woodlands, foliage, deer, fox, rabbit, wolves, and bears….but then there are the two legged animals, called humans, who feed off the animals of the woodlands, and leave their unrecycled trash for them….shame on you all! If you don’t have the decency to be decent, stay home and leave your garbage there as well.

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