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photo collage of people recycling

America Recycles Day, a Keep America Beautiful program, is the only nationally-recognized day dedicated to promoting and celebrating recycling in the United States. Held on November 15 each year, America Recycles Day (ARD) educates and encourages individuals on how to be more mindful of what they consume, where and how to properly recycle, and to pledge to recycle more and recycle right in their everyday lives. ARD highlights the actions we all can take to collectively address the challenges facing our nation’s recycling system. A good place to start is taking the Be Recycled pledge.

The Be Recycled pledge is a promise to actively choose to live a recycled lifestyle by: a) recycling at home, work, school and on the go; b) buying products made with recycled content; and c) educating and encouraging friends, family and neighbors to take the Be Recycled pledge.

Why Recycle?

#berecycled. I recycle. America Recycles Day, A Keep America beautiful initiative

Recycling is important to our community and our planet. Recycling reduces landfill waste, cuts pollution and conserves energy and natural resources. Making beverage cans from recycled aluminum cuts air pollution by about 95 percent, but tossing away an aluminum can waste as much energy as pouring out half of that can’s volume in gasoline. Recycled glass also saves energy and reduces emissions and the consumption of raw materials. From an economic standpoint, recycling creates more jobs than landfilling. Nationwide, about 681,000 jobs are attributed to the recycling industry. Landfilling 1,000 tons of waste creates 1 job, while recycling 1,000 tons of materials creates 9 jobs.

ARD Tips and Facts

For these reasons and more, Baltimore County urges people to pledge to reduce, reuse, repurpose and recycle in every aspect of their life. Keep America Beautiful has provided a list of recycling tips and facts to help us all mark America Recycles Day and improve our efforts to recycle right:

Steel

More steel is recycled each year in North America than aluminum, paper, glass and plastic combined. Recycling steel saves nearly 74 percent of the energy used to produce it from raw materials—that’s enough energy to power about 18 million homes for a full year. Recycle steel food and beverage containers at home, work, school and when in public. Many steel items that are not accepted by the curbside recycling program can be taken to one of the County’s three resident drop-off facilities.

Aluminum

Aluminum is infinitely recyclable. Recycling aluminum saves more than 90 percent of the energy required to produce new aluminum products versus producing new metal from virgin ore. When out and about, look for curbside, school, workplace or public space recycling bins to recycle aluminum containers. When recycling at home, put aluminum cans and containers in your recycling bin or bring aluminum scrap to a residential drop-off center.

Cardboard and Mixed Paper

It takes three tons of trees to make one ton of virgin cardboard. Recycle all mixed paper and cardboard boxes and packaging. Pizza box tops can be torn off and recycled if they are free of food and grease.

Glass

We have already discussed how recycling glass saves energy and reduces emissions and consumption of raw materials. Glass can be recycled over and over without any loss in purity or quality. Place glass containers in curbside, school or work recycling bins, or your recycling container at home, or bring glass to one of the County’s drop-off centers. Recycle only glass containers used for food and beverages; other types of glass, such as windows, ovenware, Pyrex, crystal, etc. are manufactured through a different process and are not recyclable.

Plastic Containers

Making new plastic bottles and jugs from recycled plastic uses 88 percent less energy than when using virgin materials. Recycled plastic can be used to make new bottles, along with a range of other consumer products. All plastic bottled drink containers are 100 percent recyclable, even the caps, so rinse them and put them in the bin. Also recycle rigid plastics, such as buckets, lawn furniture and flower pots. Read about the plastics accepted for recycling on the County’s website.

Cartons

Recycle cartons. Recycling food and beverage cardboard cartons keeps them out of landfills and gives them new life, as they can become products like napkins, tissue paper, paper towels and environmentally-friendly building and construction materials. No need to flatten, and you can leave the caps on.

Electronics

Electronics are recyclable. Electronics, including computers, tablets and mobile phones, contain valuable precious metals such as gold, silver, platinum, palladium, copper, tin and zinc that can be recovered and used to make jewelry, plating, new electronics or automotive parts. Read about your electronics recycling options in Baltimore County on the County’s website.

Plastic Film

Like other plastics, plastic bags and film can be used to make many other products. Return plastic bags and films to labeled receptacles, widely available at grocery and retail outlets, or visit abagslife.com or plasticfilmrecycling.org to find a take-back location near you. Please do not put them in the curbside bin; plastic bags and film placed in your recycling bin get tangled up in the sorting equipment at the County’s Materials Recovery Facility, bringing our entire recycling operation to a full stop.

Items to Keep Out of the Bin

Besides plastic bags and film, things that should not go into the recycling bin include clamshell plastic containers, polystyrene (Styrofoam), bubble wrap, scrap metal, belts, ropes, chains and more. These items jam the equipment and contaminate the recycling stream, reducing the value of the materials we collect.

America Recycles Day inspires individuals and organizations to recognize the economic, environmental and social benefits of recycling. Join us in making a meaningful difference this America Recycles Day and throughout the year to reduce waste, recycle more and recycle right, and increase our collective impact. Today and every day, you can choose a “recycled” lifestyle by reducing, reusing, repurposing and recycling everything you can.

This information is provided courtesy of Keep America Beautiful. Visit the Baltimore County Bureau of Solid Waste Management online to see a full list of accepted recyclables, information about curbside recycling collection, answers to FAQs and more.

By Richard Keller, Department of Public Works and Transportation

Photo of plastic bag screen machine

When it comes to preparing recyclable materials for collection in Baltimore County, it is critical that you put only those materials in the recycling container that the County can recycle.

Recyclable materials are not trash. They are industrial raw materials that manufacturers use to produce new products. In the same way we cannot “make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear,” we cannot make finished industrial products from trash or other contaminated material. Therefore, the success of the County’s recycling program depends on residents’ ability to “recycle right.”

Reduce Contamination  

Illustration of a recycling bin with trash around it

One crucial way you can recycle right is by minimizing contamination, which is important for the efficient operation of the County’s material recovery facility (MRF) in Cockeysville. Some items can get tangled in the sorting equipment, causing the facility to shut down for long periods of time while the contaminants are removed.

If collected materials are contaminated, the contaminants reduce the value of the baled recyclables or even cause rejection of the load of recyclables. This makes it more important than ever for County residents to limit contamination. If material cannot be recycled, the County will have to dispose of it instead.

Common Recycling Contaminants

What are the most serious contaminants for MRF managers? The Recycling Partnership lists the most common contaminants that MRFs face in managing recyclables.

  • Tanglers. These items (such as plastic film and bags, hoses, cords and clothes) get caught on star screens, which separate cardboard and paper from other materials. Tanglers prevent the star screens from operating properly. Periodically during the day, the system has to be shut down to cut the tanglers off the screens.
  • Bagged garbage or recycling. Do not line your recycling container with a plastic bag, and do not place trash in the recycling container.
  • Hazardous material (propane tanks, needles/sharps).
  • Yucky” things that downgrade other materials and clog the system (food, liquids, diapers, etc.).

If Baltimore County residents keep these materials out of the recycling stream, the County can maximize revenue from the sale of its recyclables.

By Emily Small, Department of Public Works and Transportation

Photo of the 2021 Reuse Directory

Baltimore County’s 2021 to 2022 Reuse Directory is coming soon to a location near you. If you have unwanted items at home, consider donating them to be recycled or reused by others before you dispose of them. The Reuse Directory provides information on organizations, nonprofits and businesses around the Baltimore region that accept various items for reuse or certain types of recycling. It also describes the end use of donations, such as supplying people with resources they might not otherwise be able to obtain.

Baltimore County encourages residents to reuse or recycle items before disposing of them, an act that benefits both the environment and the community. Donating items for reuse helps others, reduces disposal costs and pollution and conserves space in our landfill. Plus, the COVID pandemic and related shutdowns have been tough on some nonprofit organizations, thrift stores and other businesses that accept and rely on unwanted materials. Donating your unwanted stuff for reuse will also help these organizations continue navigating back to “normal.”

The next time you have items you want to dispose of, check the Directory first to see the various organizations that will accept your materials. Copies of the Directory will be distributed to Baltimore County Public Library branches, senior centers and nature centers in the coming weeks. In the meantime, you can view the 2021 to 2022 Reuse Directory (PDF) online on the County’s website.

 
 
Revised October 25, 2019               
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