Curbside Collections

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Mark Kreis
Collections Division Chief

Did you know? 

  • There are several private companies under contract with Howard County that pick up trash and recyclables from County homes.
  • County inspectors monitor over 78,000 homes for curbside and dumpster service, 5 days a week.
  • Collections may occur between 6am and 7pm. Please be sure to have your material out by 6am to ensure collection.
  • Trash collected from Howard County homes is transported to a landfill in Virginia.

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Plastic Bags in Recycling - Not Accepted

Effective Saturday, June 15, 2019, Howard County’s Department of Public Works’ Bureau of Environmental Services will no longer accept curbside recycling placed in plastic bags. Items placed out for recycling, should be placed loose in the county assigned recycling bin/cart. Any plastic bagged recyclables will not be collected curbside.

Plastic bags and plastic film foul machinery, getting wrapped around recycling equipment and jamming the screens. Small plastic fragments also become air- and water-borne litter. Due to these factors, our contracted processor will not accept plastic bagsThis includes loose and bundled plastic bags. The regional marketplace has contributed to this change.

Residents with County-provided service will receive a postcard in the mail alerting them of this change.

In addition, the Alpha Ridge Landfill Residents' Convenience Center will no longer accept items for recycling bagged in plastic. If you choose to transport your items in a plastic bag, please empty your items into the recycling compactor and take the bag with you.

County residents who wish to recycle their clean plastic bags and film may do so at participating local grocery stores, big box stores and other retailers who have collection bins set up, normally inside the store’s front entrance. Check out this handy map.

Keep it Loose, Lose the Bags. FAQs

What do I do with shredded paper now that I can’t use plastic bags in the cart?

You can put shredded paper in paper grocery bags and then add that to your recycling cart or bin.

My cart is broken and I’ve been using plastic bags so stuff doesn’t fall out the bottom, how to I get it fixed/replaced?

We can easily replace (and sometimes fix!) a broken cart. Just call us at 410-313-6444 or email to let us know. Please be sure to include your address and the size that you have so we can place a work order for the new container. Check the serial number on the front of the cart. If you see 35R, you have a 35 gallon cart; if you see 65R, you have a 65 gallon cart.

My household routinely has overflow, can I get a second cart/use another container?

Howard County provides 1 free recycling cart or bin to households with County-provided services. Residents may choose between a 18 gallon bin (open-top), 35 gallon cart (lid & wheels), or 65 gallon cart (lid & wheels). Residents may also use additional reusable containers for collection (but should refrain from using a trash can which may be confusing for collection crews).  Residents may also purchase additional County carts/bins for recycling collection. 


             18 gallon bin                   35 gallon cart                 65 gallon cart
13.5”H x 27.75”W x 17.6”D     39”H x 20”W x 23”D     41”H x 27”W x 28”D


What about windy days?

If this is a concern, residents can trade their open top bin for a cart with a lid. Just send your address to and let us know which size you'd like, or call 410-313-6444 to make an exchange. If you don't want a lidded container and are concerned about a very windy day, you can put your items in grocery store paper bags or hold your recycling until the following week. Howard County residents are also able to take recycling to the Alpha Ridge Landfill Residents' Convenience Center Monday-Saturday, 8am to 4pm. Just show your driver's licence.

Can I use paper bags?

Residents can use grocery store paper bags. Please don't use paper yard trim bags for household recycling as this will be confusing to collection crews and the bags will likely be collected by the yard trim truck. Please note that the best option for recycling is to have items loose in your recycling cart or bin.

General Information

  • Recycling, yard trim and trash is collected once a week between the hours of 6 a.m. and 7 p.m. Pickup time may vary  
  • Items must be placed out after 6 p.m. the day before collection or before 6 a.m. the day of collection.
  • Contractors will not return to collect material set out after the truck has serviced the area.
  • Collections missed due to road closings will be made the next day if possible.
  • The clean up of trash or recycling, especially in grouping locations, that is spilled and/or spread by animals or wind is the responsibility of the residents.
  • Property owners are charged a yearly REFUSE COLLECTION CHARGE of $225 per house (with yard trim collection) and $210 (without yard trim collection) on your tax bill for this service. 
  • The historic Ellicott City business district located on Main Street is also provided trash and recycling collection - please call 410-313-6444 for details on this specialized service.

What Will Be Collected

Please remember your 4's when placing items out for collection...

  • 4 item per week limit for TRASH. (Unlimited Recyclables)
  • Each item under 40 pounds. (No weight limit for recycling carts)
  • Each item less than 4 feet long.
  • Put out beFORE 6 a.m. (Pickup is between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m.)

An item is a single bag, can or bundle. Put several small bags in one 30-gallon trash can (or a large trash bag) and it's only considered 1 item. Just remember the weight limit!

What Containers to Use

Recycling - Residents receive 1 blue recycling cart or bin (we have 3 sizes!) free of charge. Recycling in plastic bags is not accepted.

Yard Trim - Visit our yard trim webpage for collection details

Trash - Residents provide their own reusable containers or disposable bags for trash. 

Reusable containers for trash must be...

  • Made of metal or tough plastic and equipped with handles and watertight, well-fitting lids.
  • Maximum 40-gallon capacity. If containers are larger than 40 gallons, each bag inside is counted as one item and loose trash will not be collected.
  • Cart-type containers larger than 40 gallons should not be used for trash. Recycling carts and bins are issued by the County for recycling only – trash or yard trim will not be collected from them.
  • Kept clean and sanitary.

Note: Reusable containers may be required in townhome communities or in areas where previous sanitation problems or rodent infestations have been identified.

Disposable bags for trash must be...

  • Heavy gauge plastic which can be picked up and carried without tearing.
  • Securely tied at the top to prevent spillage.

Where to Place Items for Collection

  • Single-family homeowners must set items to be collected within five (5) feet of the nearest public road fronting their home.
  • Place cans, bags, carts, etc. away from mailboxes on the opposite side of the driveway, if possible.
  • Residents of townhome communities without garages are required to "group" items in designated areas accessible to the collectors such as the curb end of grass islands or at the end of parking areas. Do not block mailboxes or fire hydrants.
  • After your items are collected, we recommend removing empty trash cans and recycling carts or bins from your curb (or grouping area) on your scheduled collection day to mitigate safety and aesthetic concerns.

Brochures & Signs

Recycling Brochure    Know Before You Throw SignYard Trim Brochure     Trash Brochure      Bulk Item and Scrap Metal

Check Your Collection Days

Call 410-313-6444 or check our online tool to find your collection days.

Tips to Reduce Your Trash by 50%

  • DONATE We assume nobody wants our junk, but people love to have used items...See a donation directory for pick-up and drop-off options.
  • RECYCLE unlimited quantities of acceptable recyclables on your recycling day each week. Remember: Put your household recycling together in a recycling cart, bin or see-through bag; yard trim needs to be kept separate.
  • GRASSCYCLE by leaving your grass clippings on your lawn. This process provides FREE fertilizer for your lawn.
  • COMPOST grass, leaves, yard trimmings and select food scraps to make a high grade soil.
  • Recycle YARD TRIM at the curb and save those valuable resources from the landfill.

Holidays That May Affect Your Collection

There are 6 main holidays that may affect your curbside collections. Trash, recycling and yard trim collections scheduled on or after the 6 holidays ONLY will 'slide' and be made one day later that week. No other holidays will be affected. Please remember, all items to be collected must be out by 6 a.m. on the day of collection.

Prohibited Items

  • Ashes (which can cause a fire in the collection truck)
  • Car parts - tires, wheels or batteries.
  • Cart-type containers larger than 40-gallons containing loose trash.
  • Construction & remodeling debris - bathtubs, carpet, concrete, drywall, lumber, plywood, sinks, toilets, etc.
  • Hazardous, toxic or flammable materials - asbestos, ammunition, explosives, dead animals, firearms, etc.
  • Landscaping debris - dirt, rocks, stumps, sand, sod, etc.
  • Liquids such as wet paint, cooking oil, chemicals and motor oil (which can leak onto streets).
  • Pallets
  • Rechargeable batteries - laptop, cell phone, etc.
  • Trash placed in County-provided recycling carts.
  • Trash placed in any type of recycling container (including those purchased from Home Depot, Lowes, etc).
  • Yard trim may not be put out as trash during yard trim season in areas that receive curbside yard trim collection. Yard trim season is April 1st through the third week in January.