Alan Wilcom, Recycling Division Chief


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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 bags. This 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. 


Where to Recycle Plastic Bags

Check out this handy map of places in Howard County that accept plastic bags for recycling.

Why the Change?


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 your 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 and we can make the 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. 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 yard trim bags for household recycling as this will be confusing to collection crews and they 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.


What Are You Recycling?

Print for your fridge

Please take a minute to evaluate which items you put in your recycling cart or bin and how you prepare them for collection. Please keep in mind that items like straws, food contaminated paper and cardboard, candy wrappers and plastic bags, to name a few, are not acceptable in our curbside collection. Contaminated or improper materials cause problems at recycling processors and downgrades the end product.

We need your help to keep Howard County’s recycling clean and marketable. Please don't use plastic bags, but instead, keep those cans, bottles, paper and cardboard loose in your cart or bin.

HHW Drop-Off Saturdays at ARL

Household Hazardous Waste Drop-Off Days resumed April 6th at the Alpha Ridge Landfill. Drop-off is on SATURDAYS ONLY from April through November.

Compost & Rain Barrel Demos

The 2019 schedule for compost and rain barrel gardens is now posted on our News and Upcoming Events webpage. Check it out! These amazing sessions are offered in partnership with our local Master Gardeners. 

Feed The Green Bin Expansion!

Check out details here

2 new areas will join in April 2019. Sign up to join the green cart club or see if you're in the new collection area. Check out details here.

Have Some Fun

11% of the stuff Howard County residents think is recyclable and put in their blue bin...doesn't belong and ends up as trash.

How fast can you sort?? Drag & drop items to the correct place to see how much you "KNOW" Before You Throw. Play it again for new items too!