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The Resource

The Resource

By Jeanette Garcia Polasky, Department of Public Works

Photo of the earth from space

April is Earth Month, and it’s the perfect time to step up your clean, green game. From stream cleanups and Earth Day events to home energy and waste audits, there are lots of ways to celebrate our planet this month.

Attend an Event

Events are happening all month long. Get out and celebrate Earth!

Saturday, April 6 

Sunday, April 7

April 11 to 14

Saturday, April 13  

April 13, 19 and 27

Sunday, April 14

Monday, April 15 

Tuesday, April 16

April 16 and 17

  • Baltimore County Department of Environmental Protection and Sustainability's Earth Month in the Parks events, April 16 at Northwest Regional Park and April 17 at Honeygo Regional Park 

Wednesday, April 17

Friday, April 19

Saturday, April 20 

Saturday, April 27

For a more extensive listing of cleanups and other events, see the Clean Green Baltimore County Facebook Events Calendar.

Take Action at Home

Get involved in Earth Month at home by conducting home energy and waste audits, planting trees in your yard, doing a Clean Green 15 litter pickup in your neighborhood, learning to recycle better, switching to renewable energy and more. Visit the Clean Green Baltimore County page on the County’s website for information about county programs and resources to help you reduce your environmental impact, as well as details on volunteer opportunities and upcoming green events. Follow @CleanGreenBaltCo on Facebook for daily tips and information on sustainable living.

By Richard Keller, Department of Public Works

Straws and other plastics on the beach

Baltimore County’s recycling program, like others around the country, has been able to sell certain plastics, such as PET (soda and water bottles), Natural HDPE (milk jugs) and Colored HDPE (detergent bottles), at relatively stable prices. But other plastics are harder to sell economically. As a result, there have been many attempts to ban or regulate these plastics.

The Maryland Senate and House recently passed slightly different bills to ban “food foam,” otherwise known as polystyrene food containers and cups. Delegate Brooke Lierman, primary House sponsor of the bill, said the legislation was needed to move away from single-use plastics and protect oceans, bays and neighborhoods. If enacted, Maryland would be the first state to ban food foam. Governor Larry Hogan has not said whether he will sign the bill.

Also in Maryland, Anne Arundel, Prince Georges and Montgomery counties, Baltimore City, Gaithersburg, Takoma Park, Rockville and Annapolis have all banned polystyrene foam. A 2014 study listed more than 100 communities across the nation that have banned polystyrene foam. 

Other examples of legislative efforts to ban single-use plastics (polystyrene, straws and plastic bags) include California proposing to phase out non-recyclable plastics, Fort Lauderdale planning to outlaw plastic straws and the United Kingdom proposing to ban non-essential single-use plastic.

We are also seeing businesses take steps on their own to reduce the use of single-use plastics, without legislative intervention. Examples include:

A sea turtle swimming in the ocean with a plastic bag

Association of Plastics Recyclers President Steve Alexander argues that, to reduce the amount of plastic waste (especially in the oceans), we need to increase recycling. Last year the U.S. recycled approximately 5.6 billion pounds of bottles, bags, film and rigid plastics. According to the EPA’s most recent solid waste management report, recycling rates for items such as PET and natural HDPE bottles were only about 30 percent. 

Increased recycling requires improvements in recycling infrastructure to process more material. It also requires commitment from manufacturers to increase the amount of recycled material they use in their products. 

Increases in recycling also need commitment from buyers to buy and use recycled products.

Of course, the easiest and best way to reduce the amount of plastic waste you generate is to buy and use less plastic. Here are some tools and resources to help you get started:

Visit the County’s website for more tips on preventing waste in the first place. Follow Clean Green Baltimore County on Facebook for ideas to help you live more sustainably every day.

By Ellen Kobler and Anne Marshall, Dept. of Environmental Protection and Sustainability and Dept. of Public Works

A man standing in front of an illustrated globe surrounded by recycling imagery

Baltimore County Government recently did an employee survey and found that we’re doing a pretty good job of waste reduction in our offices and facilities. For decades, we’ve been recycling everything from mixed paper, bottles and cans to toner cartridges, construction materials and more. We wanted to know what our employees are doing to prevent that sort of waste in the first place.

Many respondents are on the right track with saving paper and reusing packaging materials, and many of us drink from reusable containers rather than those ubiquitous plastic water bottles and throwaway coffee cups. The survey shows there is still room for improvement in most areas, including the use of refillable toner cartridges. The County is planning to reinvigorate its Green@Work employee outreach initiative to reduce waste and energy use, and this survey will help us prioritize our efforts.

Who knows – maybe the results of our survey and our employee waste reduction ideas will be helpful to you in your organization!

Employee Waste Prevention Survey Results

Photo of reusable cups on a table

Last fall, the Bureau of Solid Waste Management asked county employees about their waste prevention practices at work. The results of that survey are below, out of 307 employee responses:

  • 90 percent reuse envelopes and folders
  • 81 percent use reusable lunch bags
  • 80 percent distribute documents via email rather than print
  • 74 percent make double-sided prints and copies
  • 69 percent use old print-outs as scrap paper
  • 63 percent use reusable beverage containers
  • 39 percent purchase office supplies in bulk
  • 39 percent reuse packaging material
  • 37 percent make test prints before running large printing jobs
  • 33 percent unsubscribe from unnecessary mailing lists
  • 28 percent share print publications instead of having multiple subscriptions
  • 27 percent circulate documents with routing slips
  • 22 percent use refillable toner cartridges
  • 12 percent return or reuse wooden pallets
  • 7 percent use hand dryers in bathrooms

Employee Waste Reduction Ideas

Our respondents had some additional creative ideas for reducing waste, including:

  • Bring excess “goodies” from home to share with coworkers instead of throwing the food away
  • Add meeting agendas directly to their respective digital calendar appointments, rather than printing out physical copies
  • Proofread documents on-screen before printing them
  • Use only one paper towel when washing hands
  • Save documents digitally instead of filing printed copies whenever possible
  • Post a single document for employees to read, rather than printing copies for everyone
  • Use one coffee maker for the office to share
  • Reuse empty shipping or paper boxes for storage
  • Shake and reuse toner cartridges multiple times before replacing them
  • Subscribe to publications digitally rather than in print

More Waste Prevention Tips

For further information about waste prevention, including ideas to reduce waste at work and home, read the Bureau of Solid Waste Management's list of waste prevention tips. For daily inspiration, follow Clean Green Baltimore County on Facebook.

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Clean Green Baltimore County provides residents and businesses with the latest news and information on county initiatives, services and resources that support sustainable living.

Revised November 14, 2018