Clean up, reuse, recycle in the New Year

By Paul Ploumis

Just like that, we are in the second week of 2022 and if you are in the throes of post-holiday cleaning and decluttering, several local nonprofits can assist in that endeavor — and possibly help boost resolutions to increase volunteerism in the new year.

“Recycling and reusing is a hugely important topic. Myself, I was trying to clean out and pare down clothes and clutter. It make you feel so good and organized and healthy. Tucson Clean & Beautiful has an online recycling directory ( and if you need to get rid of items such as old mattresses or TVs, it can help with that,” said Katie Gannon, executive director for Tucson Clean & Beautiful (TCB).

The nonprofit, which was founded in 1985, is dedicated to preserving and improving the environment, conserving natural resources, and enhancing quality of life in Tucson and eastern Pima County.

Gannon emphasized that TCB offers an abundance of simple tips to help the public take incremental steps toward reducing waste and clutter in daily life.

“Start where you are and do whatever you can and it makes a huge difference—even if you just bring reusable bags to the store. Remember the ‘Five Rs’—refuse, reduce, reuse, repurpose, and recycle. Recycling is really the last great thing you can do. It starts way up the waste chain with refuse: Don’t even buy products with wasteful packaging; choose another product,” Gannon said.

TCB also helps promote projects such as TreeCycle, a City of Tucson program ( that offers free recycling of Christmas trees at nine different sites in Tucson and Oro Valley through Monday, January 17, 2022.

 “They mulch Christmas trees and send them back into the earth as a resource. It is a great way to dispose of your Christmas tree,” said Gannon.

Additionally, TCB provides abundant volunteer opportunities to help beautify the community, ranging from tree-plantings to clean-up of buffelgrass and its “evil stepsister, fountain grass” through efforts with the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum “Save Our Saguaros” campaign each January (

 “We have tree plantings where people can go into neighborhoods with the lowest tree canopies that are most heat-vulnerable and strategically plant trees to shade homes and yards. You don’t need any special skills for this or buffelgrass cleanups, just closed-toe shoes,” said Gannon.

Ultimately, Gannon emphasized that these outdoor volunteer opportunities are great family activities.

“These are very COVID-safe activities since they are outdoors and people can be distanced and stay in units with family or friends and it is a great time of year in Tucson to be active and get outside. You feel good physically and mentally and leave knowing you did something great for the environment,” Gannon said.

 Another nonprofit working to boost the community through recycling is RISE (, an authorized Microsoft refurbisher that processes donated electronics—particularly computers, computer accessories, back-up drives, cameras, flat screen monitors and televisions, tablets, printers, cords, wires, cell phones—to sell at a reduced price to non-profit organizations, clients and low-income families and children. Under COPE Community Services, the organization is transitioning to Evolve, a program that provides job training in retail, warehousing and computer refurbishing. COPE provides healthcare, wellness and recovery to individuals with mental health and substance abuse issues.
Last year during the pandemic, RISE provided more than 800 computers and laptops to children and families in need.

“Because everyone was working from home or going to school online, computers were in high demand. We still struggle to meet the demand and we take donations of all types of laptops, computers and tablets—both working and non-working. The ones we can refurbish need to be a little more up to date—five or six years old—but even if they are older than that we recycle them to keep them out of the landfill,” said Ruben Vejar, general manager of RISE.

Donations to the nonprofit are tax-deductible and are accepted from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays at the RISE Retail Store, 1134 S. Park Ave.

Reducing landfill waste and reusing items is at the core of the mission of the Freecycle Network (, a nonprofit grassroots movement founded by Tucsonan Deron Beal in 2003. Since then, it has grown to 9.5 million members globally who give and receive items for free through more than 5,000 local groups. Membership is free and the organization also offers small personal Friend Circles that allow members to lend items between friends and family members.

 A quick survey of the Tucson group last week offered items that range from free disposable diapers and a Brother printer to a Rubbermaid cooler and a twin-sized mattress.

“On any given day, between 10,000 and 25,000 items are given away globally, which is the equivalent of the amount that goes into a medium-sized landfill every day. Basically Freecycle allows for one less landfill on the planet each day as well as 20,000 happy people who just got or gave something away. It is a ‘small acts of kindness’ thing. You give people the tools they need to help each other and, by gosh, they will,” said Beal.