Frequently Asked Questions

What should I do with old medication?

Please DO NOT flush unwanted medications down the toilet.


  • The Howard County Police Department and HC Drug Free have unveiled three permanent medication disposal boxes in an effort to assist residents in disposing of unwanted or expired prescription and over-the-counter medications safely and anonymously. These are available daily and year-round. They are located at the Northern District Station (3410 Courthouse Drive in Ellicott City), Southern District Station (11226 Scaggsville Road in Laurel) and Gary Arthur Community Center (2400 Route 97 in Cooksville). Questions? Call 410-313-3200.
  • Place the pills in a plastic zip-top bag with coffee grounds, flour or kitty litter and put the bag in your regular trash. This makes the medicines undesirable and prevents toxins from contaminating our drinking water.
  • Local pharmacies may offer take-back or mail-in programs where a prepaid envelope is filled with unwanted medication and mailed to a disposal facility.
  • Looking outside of Howard County? Take advantage of government-sponsored programs when available. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has offered prescription drug take-back programs. Visit for information.
  • Visit for additional information and details about prescription donation sites.

Once you have safely disposed of the medication, you can recycle your empty medicine bottles.

How do I find out my curbside collection days?

We have an online tool to check your collection days. Or, you can call 410-313-6444 or email for your recycling, yard trim and trash collection days.

When does the County offer shredding events?

There are typically two County-sponsored shredding events each year; one in the Spring (April) and one in the Fall (October). The News and Upcoming Events page will be updated with specific dates. Also check out our Paper Shredding page for tips and event details.

What should I do with plastic bags?

The best way to recycle your bags/film is to take them to a grocery or retail store. Most local grocery stores, and retail stores, such as IKEA, Wal-Mart and Target, have collection containers for plastic bags and film. This option ensures that the items stay clean and dry and can be recycled.

Why shouldn't I put bags in my curbside bin?

Loose bags, and even bundled bags, can get wrapped around recycling equipment and jam the screens at the processor. Plastic bags can do A LOT of damage to the curbside recycling processor equipment. TIP: Reduce the amount of plastic bags you have by using reusable bags.

Do the grocery and retail stores actually recycle the plastic bags?

Yes! Many collection locations are contracted with companies that specialize in recycling plastic bags and film to make plastic 'wood' decking. Their processing equipment is specifically designed for plastic bags and film, which helps to ensure that the bags stay clean and dry.

What items are included in plastic bags and film?

  • Grocery/retail bags
  • Mattress/furniture covers
  • Newspaper bags
  • Bread bags
  • Dry cleaning bags
  • Plastic wrap from toilet paper rolls, napkins, paper towels, bottles of water, etc.
  • Produce bags
  • Frozen vegetable bags
  • Food storage bags (please be sure these are empty and lightly rinsed if needed)
  • Bubble wrap
  • Air filled bags for packaging
  • Any other clean, dry bags/film

Not sure if your bag or film can be recycled in your bag-of-bags? Do the stretch test! If you can stretch the plastic film/bag pretty easily, it can be recycled at your local store. If the plastic is crinkly or does not easily stretch, it should go in the trash. The plastic wrap from CD cases is a good example of crinkly, non-stretchable plastic that should be trashed.

Help! Something of value ended up in my trash-recycling. How can I get it back?

Unfortunately, once items are in the back of the trash, recycling or yard trim truck, it's very difficult to retrieve them. Please take extra precautions to guarantee that items of value do not accidentally get placed with your trash or recycling.

Is Styrofoam™ recyclable in Howard County?

At this time, we ONLY accept Styrofoam™ #6 at the Alpha Ridge Landfill Convenience Center. Do not add Styrofoam to your curbside recycling. There is a limited market for the material and the processor that accepts our recyclables does not accept Styrofoam™. We've also compiled a list of organizations that reuse or recycle Styrofoam™ cups, packaging and peanuts. Please see our What Should I Do With...? webpage for details. Note: We understand that this can be confusing because most Styrofoam™ has the recycling symbol. Please remember that the symbol and number is a resin identification code and doesn't mean that the item can be recycled.

What are my options for tours and presentations?

1) WMRA Elkridge

Schedule a tour of Waste Management Recycle America located at 7175 Kit Kat Road in Elkridge. Please note this tour is only available for people 18 and older. This tour lasts about an hour. Tours are scheduled as requested and must be groups of at least 6, with a maximum of 15. If you are not able to form a group, you can be added to an existing tour. Call 410-313-6444 for a tour schedule.

2) WMRA Capital Heights

Schedule a tour of Waste Management Recycle America located in Capital Heights. This is the sister facility to the processor in Elkridge, but has a viewing platform that's great for kids of all ages. This facility is located at 1000 Ritchie Road, Capital Heights, 20743 and the phone number to schedule a tour is 301-499-1707.

3) Alpha Ridge Landfill Tour

Schedule a tour of Alpha Ridge Landfill. A Recycling Coordinator will guide your group around Alpha Ridge Landfill Residents' Convenience Area to discuss what is collected and what happens to all those items. Many things are reused or recycled, but trash is collected too. The group may also tour the Compost Demo Area and Transfer Building. Did you know most of Howard County's trash is exported to a landfill in VA? Call 410-313-6444 to schedule.

4) Recycling Presentation

Schedule a recycling presentation. A Recycling Coordinator will discuss the ins and outs of recycling, as well as provide an inside look at what happens to all those things we recycle. Here's the video if you'd like to check it out! Call 410-313-6444 to schedule.

Can I swap for a smaller or larger recycling cart or bin?

Yes. Call 410-313-6444 to exchange your container for a different size. Please leave your bin/cart out and available until the exchange is made. If you live in a townhome community, please leave your bin/cart by your house for exchange and not in a grouping area. Residents do not need to be home for the swap.

I set something at my curb that wasn't meant for trash or recycling. Why did the trash or recycling truck pick it up?

The trucks for residential trash and recycling will clear the curb of material. If something is at the curb or grouping area, they assume it is to be picked up for trash or recycling. If you need to set out items for charity or other pickups, please make arrangements for a pickup spot other than your normal trash/recycling pickup area. This will ensure items end up where they were intended.

How can I get rid of paint?

Hold a paint swap with neighbors and friends so that usable paint doesn't go to waste. Mix white (or colored) paints together to give your walls or furniture a fresh look. Solidify old and unusable paint by adding an absorbent material such as cat litter, shredded newspaper, leaves, sawdust, or dirt. If there isn't much paint left in the can, leave the lid off to air dry. Once solidified, the paint can be disposed with your normal household trash, but remember the 40 pound limit for trash containers. Paint can also be brought to Alpha Ridge Landfill during a HHW drop-off day or you can contact Yuck Old Paint and ask for a pickup.