By Jenna-Lee Neff

A trip down any highway in Arizona makes one thing obvious: litter in the state is becoming a major element of the scenery. In fact, the Arizona Department of Transportation says that it cost taxpayers more than $4 million each year just to clean up discarded trash along the highways. But one local business takes trash removal seriously, and they have put out a call-to-action to the community to step up and keep Arizona beautiful.

North Valley Custom Hauling is a family-owned junk removal service located in Desert Hills. When Dustin Holm and his team noticed the increasing litter, they did what no one else was doing—they picked it up.
“We started picking up mattresses and debris we saw on the side of the road during our workday as a way to pay back the community,” Holm says. He adds that what started as giving back to the community grew into a volunteer-led effort now known as Don’t Dump in Our Desert.

“We had the equipment to haul away stuff, but not the manpower to do large cleanups,” he shares. “We created events and took to social media.”

Now, the initiative has grown into a group of local business owners and residents who set aside one Saturday a month to take on cleanup projects. According to Holm, the cleanups average between 30 and 50 volunteers, depending on the size.

Since the North Valley Custom Hauling team took to social to spread the word, Holm says they have done five larger cleanups and dozens of smaller ones. In the past year, he estimates that they have been able to remove 25,000-35,000 pounds of trash from the desert in North Phoenix. They show no signs of slowing down. According to a recent Facebook post by the group, the February cleanup broke the record for the amount of trash they removed in a single cleanup, picking up and hauling away 6,380 pounds.

Those interested in getting involved with Don’t Dump in Our Desert can join the group on Facebook at “Don’t Dump in Our Desert – North Valley” or through groups in the Nextdoor app in the Anthem, Carefree, Cave Creek, New River, North Scottsdale, and Vistancia neighborhoods.

According to Holm, they plan to continue doing at least one clean up per month as long as the weather in the Valley permits. “Anybody that has a few hours on a Saturday morning can get involved,” he says.

Want to help spread the word? Get involved in the next event or share your own clean up hike on social media with the hashtag #dontdumpinourdesert.

Jenna-Lee Neff is a freelance journalist, digital audience analyst, and nonprofit public relations professional. Learn more about her work at