Logo for Arizona Recycles program, showcasing children in a circle to emphasize the importance of recycling for future generations.
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 Recycling paper in a bin labeled "Paper".Does your family recycle? When you Reduce, Reuse and Recycle, you know that you are doing your part to help keep our planet cleaner and greener.  


The City of Tucson has a goal to attain 50 percent waste diversion by 2030 and reach zero waste by the year 2050. To reach that ambitious goal means revving up all three Rs—Reduce, Reuse, Recycle! The City of Tucson aims to educate the public and EMPHASIZE that sustainable efforts must include all three Rs: reducing consumption, reusing what you can and then recycling the rest.

 The City of Tucson website has a FAQ section on what can go into the blue bin and items that do not belong in the blue recycling bin. For example, when it comes to the blue bin, plastic bags are a big no-no! These bags and other soft plastics can jam the automated machines used to sort recyclable materials. When the automation is jammed, the whole process comes to a standstill. An exception to the no bag rule is shredded paper. It may be recycled in the blue bin, but only if it is secured in a clear plastic bag.

Never bag your other recyclables–except when placing items in the orange bins. So what can you do with plastic bags and soft plastics? Many grocery stores have soft plastic collection bins. Another option is placing these items in the orange roll-off bins. More information about this type of recycling is under the Recycling and Plastic Diversion in Tucson section of this article.


On the City of Tucson website you can find the Zero Waste Roadmap.

Tucson’s overall diversion rate (the amount of waste not sent to the landfill) in 2021 was around 4 percent, based on quantities collected by the city or received at Los Reales Sustainability Campus. 1,700 tons of glass was recycled through the glass collection program, 518 tons of household hazardous waste was collected, 261 tons of material was composted with the FoodCycle pilot program and 29,620 tons of city collected materials were diverted to the Materials Recovery Facility.

Blue plastic recycling bin with a recycling logo, designed for collecting plastic materials for recycling.NEVER put into Recycling bin:

• Food waste

• Yard trimmings & debris 

• Plastic bags

• Paper towels & napkins

DO Recycle:

• Cardboard (break it down, please)

• Plastic bottles with caps

• Paper & newspaper

When it comes to recyclables, they must be free of food and grease. Containers should be empty, clean and dry before you place them into the recycling bin. Food scraps should never be placed in your recycling bin!

But a bottle or jar doesn’t have to be spotless just a quick rinse and airing should be sufficient for most recyclables. Pizza boxes can be recycled if they are clean. That may mean separating the clean top (recycle bin) from the greasy bottom (trash or compost). Cups or containers made of compostable plastic should not go into the recycling bin and styrofoam does not go into your recycling. You should recycle plastic bottles with the caps left on, but glass bottles and jars should have the lids removed. 

Recycle These: Cardboard/Paper, Glass Bottles & Jars*, Aluminum/ Tin Cans, Plastic Containers, Jugs, Bottles. *Glass is no longer accepted in city blue bins, but is collected in the purple containers at drop-off sites across the city Don’t Recycle These: Plastic Bags, Textiles, Food Waste, Styrofoam

Recycling and Plastic Diversion in Tucson 

Green recycling bin labeled 'metal' filled with various metal cans and aluminum items.Most people are familiar with blue recycling bins at their homes or a drop-off location. There have been changes to what you can put in your blue bin at home. You can recycle plastic bottles, jugs, restaurant food containers, cardboard boxes, newspapers, magazines, aluminum cans, milk cartons and juice boxes. Never put any kind of a plastic bag into your blue bin. This causes CONTAMINATION and can harm machines at the recycle facility. When recycle items are in a plastic bag, they end up going to the landfill. You can no longer put glass bottles in your blue bin. Glass is now accepted at drop-off locations only. The roll-off container for glass is purple and there are various locations around Tucson. Visit www.tucsonaz.gov and search glass recycle for the locations. 

A Tucson park bench made with fused plastic building blocks.Any plastic smaller than a tennis ball is too small to be recycled, but there is another way to save smaller plastics from going into a landfill. You might have noticed the orange roll-off containers at recycling locations. These bins are for plastic that cannot normally be recycled. These items are recycled with the Tucson Plastic Diversion Program. The small plastic is fused together creating a block that is roughly 16 x 8 x 8 inches. Each block contains 22 pounds of plastic and weighs 22 pounds and is created by a company in California called ByFusion.

How the Program Started

The Tucson Plastic Diversion Program started as a pilot program from August to December of 2022 and now has become a permanent program. Ward 6 Council Member Steve Kozachik launched the program to help keep plastic out of landfills and oceans. “People were very receptive to the pilot program and I was pleasantly surprised at how well the program took off,” says Kozachik. Tucsonans were excited to be able to put straws, lids, plastic utensils, bubble wrap, bubble mailers, medicine bottles, plastic that comes wrapped around soda, water and sports drinks cases into the orange roll-off containers.

Unlike with blue bins, when you put your plastic in the orange containers you are requested to make sure everything is secured in a plastic bag. Remember that Styrofoam, electronics, foil and metal cannot be put in the orange bins. For a full list of what can be put in the orange bins and where the bins are located visit www.tucsonaz.gov and search orange bins.

Since the program began, over 240 tons of plastic have been repurposed into ByBlocks that have been used to create planters, park benches and even a tiny house. You can see some of these items outside of the Ward 6 Office (3202 E. 1st Street). “Plastic is in nearly everything we use. Plastic is not evil–it is a big commodity in our lives,” says Kozachik. With the popularity of the program, the City of Tucson made an agreement to build a ByFusion plant in Tucson. The plant is still in development, but will be located near the Los Reales Landfill and should be up and running by the end of the year. Kozachik noted that Tucson is the first city in the world to scale up a program where non-recycled plastic is converted into building blocks.

Having a ByFusion facility in Tucson will eliminate current expenses such as sending the items collected in the orange roll-offs to ByFusion in California. The City of Tucson will keep 10 percent of ByBlocks made in Tucson to use for park benches, planters, tables and more. Kozachik says the orange roll-offs are emptied six days a week and other cities have reached out to him asking how they can start a program in their area. He also mentioned that a 600 square foot 2 bedroom,1 bath house was recently built in Flagstaff using ByBlocks.

Did You KNOW? An aluminum can can be recycled over and over again!WHERE DOES IT ALL GO?

Recycle Bin: plastic bottles, metal and aluminum cans, newspaper

Compost or Trash bin: food scraps, yard trimmings, napkins, compostable plastic

Trash: styrofoam, diapers

Check local recycling guidelines: glass jars, plastic clamshells, takeout containers, juice boxes

Green recycling bin labeled 'glass' filled with various glass jars and bottles