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Date: Dec 27, 2017

by Natalie Adachi, Intern, Bureau of Solid Waste Management

Waste prevention is the effort to decrease the amount of waste we produce. It is best achieved by not creating waste in the first place. This helps protect the environment and extend the life of the County’s landfill. By reducing and reusing in your daily life, you can help prevent waste, save energy and natural resources, and reduce your carbon footprint.

Now, that might sound like a vast prospect, but Baltimore County’s residents have made strong progress in their recycling efforts since the start of the County’s recycling program in the 1990s. Recently, the County bolstered its waste prevention education efforts with the launch of the Clean Green Baltimore County Facebook page. Our America Recycles Day Q&A video has been watched and shared nearly 3,000 times since America Recycles Day on November 15.

It’s no surprise that when the Bureau of Solid Waste Management asked county residents to share tips and strategies for preventing and reducing unnecessary waste in their daily lives, they delivered.

Hold the straw, pass on plastic

Baltimore County resident Allison Mosley works hard to reduce, reuse, and recycle. Allison has switched from single use coffee cups to a french press. She takes mason jars or other reusable food storage containers to dinners at friends’ houses and restaurants in order to reduce food and paper waste, and uses wool dryer balls as a chemical-free alternative to dryer sheets.

Allison has also sworn off plastic straws. Whenever she goes out to eat, she asks the server to hold the straw, and she always asks for a glass cup instead of a plastic one. Plastic drinking straws harm the environment and can be deadly to wildlife, so asking restaurants to hold them is an easy way to be a better steward and help reduce plastic waste. You can also check out websites like the for greener alternatives to the plastic straw.

Allison also suggested re-purposing cereal bags as wax paper and using reusable plastic food storage containers instead of disposable plastic food storage bags. She doesn’t buy water in disposable plastic bottles, using a reusable, BPA-free bottle. She also avoids using plastic cutlery. Allison is doing so many simple things to help reduce the amount of plastic she uses, and ultimately, what she has to either recycle or throw away.

What about toothpaste tubes

County resident Jennifer Spring Gerber told us about MOM’s Organic Market’s thriving recycling program. MOM’s accepts plastics such as cling wrap and food storage bags, health and beauty products such as toothpaste tubes and makeup containers, and other items Baltimore County does not accept for recycling. Be sure to check out their website to read more about their policies and the items they accept.

Creative reuse

Margaret M. Saunders reuses plastic pretzel containers as storage for her grandchildren’s small toys and other miscellaneous items. She uses empty saltine boxes to store spices in her kitchen. This saves her space and makes locating them much easier. She also works to reduce plastic waste by cutting water bottles in half and uses them to dry eggs and hold finger paints. If you poke holes in the bottoms, you can even use water bottles for seedlings in a garden!

Recycle cartridges

Judy Chernak recommended taking ink and toner cartridges to one of the many office supply stores that accept them for recycling. Baltimore County’s Reuse Directory lists Annapolis Office Technologies as an option for recycling printer cartridges. Judy also mentioned that, to reduce paper waste, she reuses the blank sides of letters, advertisements and solicitations as scrap paper. She advises you to black out personal information beforehand.

About those shopping bags

Denise Haitmanek brought up another important way to reduce plastic waste: reusable shopping bags. Plastic shopping bags are not recyclable in Baltimore County because they get caught in the machinery at the Materials Recovery Facility, or MRF, where they “gum up the works.” Plastic shopping bags also pollute the environment and are harmful to wildlife. Plastic bags can take a thousand years to decompose, so it’s smart to reuse them as many times as you can. Switching to reusable shopping bags is an easy way to reduce the amount of plastic waste you create. To deal with the plastic bags you already have, check and to find stores and businesses that will be glad to accept your plastic bags for recycling.

Waste not!

We also received some great tips from Lauren S., Candice Schoolman, and other residents, all featured on the Clean Green Baltimore County Facebook page. Be sure to check them out, like and share!

We thank all of the residents who shared their tips and strategies for producing less waste. We hope their commitment to waste prevention has inspired you, and that their advice and ideas will help you reduce, reuse, and make Baltimore County cleaner and greener.

Revised October 16, 2020               
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