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Recycling: Frequently Asked Questions

Q.  What is "single stream recycling," and when did it start in Baltimore County?

A. Single stream recycling means that paper, bottles and cans may be combined in the same container to be placed out for collection each week. Baltimore County's single stream collection program became available to all single family homes and town homes in the County on February 1, 2010. By October 1, 2010, nearly all apartment and condominium complexes in the County were also participating in the program.

Q. What kinds of materials are accepted for single stream recycling?

A. In the current single stream program, residents are now able to recycle more items than ever before, including:

  • narrow-neck plastic bottles and jugs with a number from one to seven 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
  • milk and juice cartons or boxes

A full list of accepted materials for recycling is available.

Q. Does Baltimore County provide recycling containers?

A. The County currently does not provide recycling containers, mainly to avoid incurring County expenses 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. View our set-out guide to learn about the wide variety of acceptable recycling containers in Baltimore County.

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 public libraries 
  • Baltimore County’s three trash and recycling drop-off centers in White Marsh, Cockeysville and Halethorpe
  • Baltimore County's Solid Waste Management office (stickers can be requested by emailing or calling 410-887-2000)

We encourage residents to call ahead to a library before visiting to ensure that they have a supply of container stickers. 

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

A. Unfortunately, plastic bags cause complications at the single stream recycling sorting facility. Malfunctions can occur when plastic bags get wrapped around the equipment. Therefore, Baltimore County is not collecting recyclables in plastic bags. Even if a plastic bag is marketed as "for recycling," "recyclable" or "compostable," it is not acceptable as a recycling container in Baltimore County.

Though plastic bags are not 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.

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.

Q. Is recycling really cost-effective? 

A. Yes, recycling is cost-effective. Disposing of recyclables as trash costs the County and its taxpayers $61 per ton. Avoiding unnecessary disposal costs through recycling is a major advantage of recycling.

Additionally, Baltimore County now owns its own single stream sorting facility, located at the Central Acceptance Facility in Cockeysville. By marketing the recyclables that have been sorted at the facility, Baltimore County is able to retain the value of these materials and maximize the financial benefits of its single stream recycling program. The sorting facility has already proven financially successful—in just its first six months of operation (November 2013 through April 2014), the facility generated net operating revenues of nearly one million dollars.

More information about the County's sorting facility is available, including a video of the sorting process and instructions for scheduling tours.

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 51 percent 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.

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. Information regarding commercial recycling is available.

Revised July 23, 2018         
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