Recycling Facts & FAQs

What is Howard County's waste diversion rate?

In 2017, Howard County's waste diversion rate was 49.77%. The waste diversion goal is comprised of the recycling rate plus source reduction credits (maximum 5%) that Maryland Counties and Baltimore City earn through activities designed to reduce the amount of waste going to the waste stream.

How much is recycled in Howard County?

In 2017, Howard County recycled a total of 238,145 tons of material! This included 53,406 tons from residents and 184,739 tons from businesses. Business tons were generated by Howard County businesses who reported to us. These businesses are recognized as Work Green Howard businesses. Is your favorite business a Work Green Howard Business?

What’s in my blue recycling cart?

    Paper and Cardboard – 59.7%
    Glass Bottles – 15.5%
    Aluminum Cans – 1.1%
    Water & Soda Bottles – 4.1%
    Metal Cans – 1.7%
    Milk Containers - .8%
    Liquid Detergent Containers – 1.2%
    Other Plastic Containers (#3-7) – 2.5%
    Rigid Plastics - 1.2%
    Trash – 11.5%

Percentages based on average weights from recent audits. Trash includes items that are not recyclable, as well as items that do not belong in the blue cart, but can be recycled in other programs (For example: Styrofoam, yard trim, scrap metal). Please take these items to the Alpha Ridge Landfill for recycling. These items placed in the blue recycling carts are sorted out as trash and will not be recycled.

What's going on at the Alpha Ridge Landfill?

    In 2017, we gave away about 500 compost bins!

    We collected:
    • an average of 32 flags per month for retirement.
    • over 1300 bikes for Bikes for the World in 8 months since program launch
    • average 215 mattresses and/or box springs per month
    • 22.72 tons of car batteries
    • 17.3 tons of Styrofoam
    • 274.30 tons of tires
    • 445.93 tons of single stream
    • 73.85 tons of rigid plastics
    • 23.49 tons of cardboard
    • The Loading Dock received (among many other items):
      • 489 interior doors
        105 exterior doors
        102 windows
        169 toilets
        262 kitchen cabinets
        32 kitchen sinks
        411 light fixtures
        3,140 gallons of neutral, useable paint

Should I use paperless billing? 

According to, if 20% of American households switched from paper to electronic bills, statements and payments each year, the collective impact would:

    • Save 150,939,615 pounds of paper
    • Save 1,811,275 trees
    • Avoid producing almost 2 million tons of greenhouse gases
    • Avoid creating over a billion gallons of waste-water during paper production
    • Avoid using over 100 million gallons of gas to mail payments 

Contact your current service providers and ask to start paperless billing today!


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.

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.


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? 

Please take your bags/film is 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, get wrapped around recycling equipment and jam the screens at the processor. Plastic bags 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? 

Styrofoam™ #6 can be taken to the Alpha Ridge Landfill Convenience Center for recycling. Do not add Styrofoam to your curbside recycling. We've compiled a list of organizations that reuse or recycle Styrofoam™ cups, packaging and peanuts. Please see our Know Before You Throw 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.

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.