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Recycling

Frequently Asked Questions

Q.  What is new regarding Baltimore County's residential recycling program?

A.  As of February 1, 2010, all single family homes and town homes in Baltimore County have single stream recycling collection.  Single stream recycling collection means that paper, bottles, and cans may be combined in the same container to be placed out for collection each week.  Furthermore, as of October 1, 2010, nearly all apartment and condominium complexes in the County also participate in the single stream recycling collection program.

More information on Baltimore County's recycling program can be found on our single stream collection page.

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Q. Why did Baltimore County transition to single stream recycling collection?

A. The County's decision to implement single stream recycling collection came as the result of extensive research, four public discussion meetings, a comprehensive random and statistically sound survey, input from a Solid Waste Management Citizens Review Committee, and a public hearing. All of this culminated in single stream recycling becoming the lead recycling recommendation in the County's Ten Year Solid Waste Management Plan. In December 2008 the County Council unanimously adopted the Ten Year Solid Waste Management Plan and the County Executive signed it.

Single stream recycling allows residents to place all acceptable recyclables out for collection mixed together, each week. This is a major improvement over placing paper and bottles & cans out on alternating weeks, especially in easing storage needs.

Additionally, residents are now able to recycle more items than before, including:

  • narrow-neck plastic bottles and jugs with a number from 1 to 7 in a recycling symbol;
  • wide-mouth plastic containers (such as butter and yogurt containers);
  • rigid plastics (such as buckets, drinking cups, and flower pots);
  • empty aerosol cans;
  • aluminum foil and pie pans; and
  • milk and juice cartons/boxes.

Other jurisdictions around the country that have transitioned to a single stream recycling collection program have experienced an increase in recycling participation.

Recycling is more important than ever because the County’s only operating landfill is already about half full. Furthermore, recycling avoids sharply increasing trash disposal costs. With the move to single stream recycling, Baltimore County residents will be able to do more than ever to protect the environment and minimize disposal costs.

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Q. Why does Baltimore County not provide recycling containers?

A. The County currently does not provide recycling containers, mainly to avoid incurring County expenses, especially in these tight fiscal times.

However, in an effort to make recycling convenient for residents, there is considerable flexibility in how recyclables may be placed out for collection. Specifically, recyclables may be mixed together and set out for collection in a wide variety of containers, including:

  • recycling containers up to 34 gallon capacity;
  • trash containers up to 34 gallon capacity used only for recycling (marked with a large "X" or "RECYCLE"); or
  • small cardboard boxes (boxes collected with contents).

Paper and cardboard may also be tied in bundles with non-plastic string or placed in paper bags for collection, as has been the case since the inception of the residential recycling collection program in the 1990s.

There is no limit on the number of containers, boxes, or bundles that may be placed out for collection.

The Bureau of Solid Waste Management has further taken the initiative by sending letters to more than 60 Baltimore County retailers we believe sell trash and/or recycling containers, informing them of Baltimore County's transition to single stream recycling. The letters encourage these retailers to stock plenty of containers that may be used for recycling.

Baltimore County has also made stickers available for residents that may be affixed to containers as another way to designate that the containers are being used exclusively for recycling. These stickers are not in any way required to participate in the single stream recycling program. Stickers for recycling containers are available free of charge at the following locations: Baltimore County senior centers, Baltimore County public libraries, and the County’s three trash and recycling drop-off centers in White Marsh, Cockeysville, and Halethorpe.  We encourage residents to call ahead to a library or senior center before visiting to ensure that they have a supply of container stickers. 

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Q. Why are plastic bags an unacceptable way to set out recyclables in the single stream recycling collection program?

A. Unfortunately, plastic bags cause complications at the single stream recycling sorting facility. Specifically, malfunctions can occur when plastic bags get wrapped around the equipment. Therefore, Baltimore County is not collecting recyclables in plastic bags.

Though plastic bags will not be permitted in Baltimore County's single stream program, many local grocery stores will accept clean, dry plastic bags for recycling. You can help the environment even more by using reusable bags when shopping. This will eliminate or reduce the need for plastic bags.

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Q. May residents simply set out all their trash on recycling days?

A. No, only acceptable recyclable items may be placed out for collection on recycling days.

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Q. Must residents mix together their paper items with their metal, plastic, and glass items when setting out their recyclables for collection on recycling days?

A. No, residents may mix these items together, but may also keep them separate if they prefer.

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Q. Is recycling really cost-effective? 

A. Yes, recycling is cost-effective.  Disposing of recyclables costs the County and its taxpayers $55 per ton.  Avoiding unnecessary disposal costs through recycling is a major advantage of recycling. 

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Q. How does recycling improve the environment?

A. Recycling improves the environment in many ways:

  • Baltimore County’s only landfill, Eastern Sanitary Landfill, is already half full.  Recycling diverts materials from going in the landfill, thereby extending landfill life. 
  • Recycling conserves natural resources, such as timber, water and mineral ores.
  • Supplying recycled materials to an industry uses less energy than supplying virgin materials that incur extra extraction and transportation costs.
  • Manufacturing with recycled materials, with very few exceptions, produces less air and water pollution than manufacturing with virgin materials.

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Q. What can businesses that are interested in recycling do?

A. Although the County does not offer recycling collection service to businesses, the Bureau offers advice and guidance to businesses interested in recycling.  This includes making presentations about recycling and, in some cases, allowing businesses with advance permission to drop off recyclable paper, cardboard, aluminum, steel, and plastic items at one of Baltimore County's three drop-off centers.  Businesses interested in more information or assistance from the County can call the Bureau’s customer service line at 410-887-2000. Further information regarding commercial recycling is available at www.mdrecycles.org.

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Revised January 7, 2011

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