What is Arizona Border Trash?

Border trash refers to items discarded by persons involved in illegal immigration such as plastic containers, clothing, backpacks, foodstuffs, vehicles, bicycles and paper. It can also consist of human waste and sometimes medical products.

Characterizing the Impact

Accumulated border trash has been shown to affect human health, the environment and economic wellbeing. Impacts include:

  • Strewn trash and piles
  • Illegal trails and paths
  • Erosion and watershed degradation
  • Damaged infrastructure and property
  • Loss of vegetation and wildlife
  • Campfires and escaped fires
  • Abandoned vehicles and bicycles
  • Vandalism, graffiti and site damage (historical and archaeological)
  • Occurrence of bio-hazardous waste

Quantifying the Impact

Apprehensions of individuals by the U.S. Border Patrol as a result of illegal immigration vary every year. Current U.S. Border Patrol statistics indicate that in federal fiscal year 2016, which ended on September 30, approximately 64,900 border crossers were apprehended in the Tucson Sector, which doesn't count the many others who get through. The border crossers leave approximately six to eight pounds of trash in the desert during his or her journey. The cost of disposing of this trash is high for local communities. Landfill fees range from $37 to $49 per ton in Southern Arizona. These fees do not include costs for materials, equipment, labor and transportation for the collection and transfer of the trash to the landfill.

Distinguishing Border Trash from Illegal Dumping

Consideration should be made when deciding whether waste that is found accumulated at sites is border trash or other "illegal dumping" activity. Disposal of solid wastes at any location that has not been approved by an authorized agency to accept waste is illegal. Waste streams usually differ between border trash as described above and illegal dumping. Illegal dumping waste often consists of household garbage, construction debris, appliances or electronics, or hazardous chemicals in drums or containers can also be encountered. Sometimes, illegal dumping can be comingled with border trash in an area. This Web site is designed strictly for border trash cleanups, although some resources may be helpful for cleanups of any kind.


The Arizona Border Trash Web site is a tool to inform stakeholders about conducting and documenting border trash cleanups. Data collected through this Web site is for the sole purpose of summarizing cleanup events. Please note that for personal safety, interested volunteers should coordinate with a governmental entity leading a cleanup event. Local law enforcement, first responders or other appropriate entity, along with cleanup organizers, should be contacted directly to report potentially criminal, medical or other urgent situations. This website was designed for use with Internet Explorer 9. If you experience any issues, try using a different browser.