Recycling Collection Details

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Howard County provides ONE FREE recycling container to residents that receive curbside collection from the County. Containers are assigned to each address and MUST REMAIN AT THE HOUSE, even if the resident moves. You can put your street name and number on the container which will help it stay where it belongs. There are three options for containers: 18 gallon bin (13.5”H x 27.75”W x 17.6”D), 35 gallon cart (39”H x 20”W x 23”D) or 65 gallon cart (41”H x 27”W x 28”D).

Check your recycling and trash collection days.

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Plastic Bags/Film - Not Accepted in Recycling

Effective Saturday, June 15, 2019, any type of plastic bags/film is no longer accepted in recycling. Items placed out for recycling, should be loose in the county assigned recycling bin/cart (plastic bagged recyclables will not be collected curbside). Plastic bags and film should be taken to your local retail or grocery store. Here is a map of plastic bag/film recycling locations and see what they accept.

Why the change?  Plastic bags and plastic film get wrapped around recycling equipment and jam the sorting screens. Small plastic fragments also become air- and water-borne litter. Due to these factors, our contracted processor will not accept plastic bags or plastic filmThis includes loose and bundled plastic bags. Watch our No Plastic Bags video.

For more, check out our 'NO Plastic Bags' section below for details and frequently asked questions.

Collection Guidelines

  • Delivered recycling containers are County property and MUST STAY AT THE ASSIGNED ADDRESS. Even if you're moving within Howard County, the blue container should be left behind.
  • Use a blue cart, bin or paper bag (do not use plastic bags for recyclables). You do not need to use the County-provided blue containers, another reusable container of your choice is fine, but please don't use trash cans as collectors will think you set out trash and won't pick it up.
  • You don't need to remove lids, caps, labels or rings, but please empty containers and rinse lightly, if needed.
  • You can set-out unlimited recycling on your collection day.
  • Recyclables should be loose in your recycling container. 
  • 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.
  • NO yard trim or trash in County-issued recycling carts and bins.

NO Plastic Bags

All plastic bags and film are not acceptable in curbside recycling. This includes:

  • Grocery/retail bags
  • Mattress/furniture covers
  • Newspaper bags
  • Bread bags
  • Dry cleaning bags
  • Plastic wrap from toilet paper rolls, napkins, paper towels, bottled water, etc.
  • Produce bags
  • Frozen vegetable bags
  • Food storage bags
  • Bubble wrap
  • Air filled bags for packaging

These should be taken to a grocery or retail store for recycling. See map for locations! Check out this poster about what can be taken back to your local grocery or retail store for recycling.


Why can't you put bags in your 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 and are not accepted by our recycling processor.

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 to hold items, 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 an 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. 

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 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.


Paper recyclables MUST BE CLEAN.



  • milk & juice cartons
  • aseptic packaging (juice boxes, soup, broth, milk)
  • newspapers & inserts
  • books (paperback, hardback, phone books)
  • junk mail (NEW! No windowed envelopes)
  • catalogs/magazines
  • boxes (food, snack, shoe, toy)
  • gift wrap (non-shiny only)
  • tubes from paper towels & toilet paper
  • paper egg cartons



  • food contaminated boxes such as greasy pizza boxes 
  • windowed envelopes
  • ice cream containers
  • wax paper
  • paper towels, napkins, tissues
  • paper plates, bowls, cups
  • foil-type gift wrap (can't easily be torn)
  • laminated paper
  • paper that can't be torn easily (typically means there are plastic layers added)



  • clean cardboard ONLY



  • food contaminated boxes such as greasy pizza boxes 
  • styrofoamTM pieces - please recycle at Alpha Ridge Landfill
  • waxed cardboard (bulk/supplier produce boxes)
  • furnace filters


HOW TO prepare for collection

  • remove plastic liners, waxed paper and styrofoamTM packaging material
  • flatten all boxes to conserve space
  • cut boxes to fit into the 2' x 4' x 6" opening in the recycling truck (i.e., the size of a large bath towel and thickness of a pillow)
  • If preferred, tie or bundle with string (stacked no higher than 6")


The markets have changed and it’s best to recycle items that are clean, empty and dry.  Please screw the lid or cap back on before recycling. 


YES (Clean. Empty. Dry.)

  • bottles (soap, dressings, drinks, sauces, etc.)
  • spray bottles (hair and cleaning products)
  • pump bottles (lotions and soaps)
  • Jugs (detergents, milk, juices)
  • tubs (butter, cheese, yogurt)
  • jars (peanut butter, spreads, sauces)
  • frozen food trays
  • milk/soda crates
  • flower pots (CLEAN, no soil or plant material)
  • buckets (including buckets with metal handles)
  • plastic furniture
  • coolers
  • totes and sweater boxes (best to donate)
  • pet carriers (best to donate to animal shelters)



  • disposable plastic cups and plates
  • disposable utensils
  • plastic clamshell packaging for food, toys, electronics, batteries, etc (examples and why they aren't recyclable)
  • takeout and chicken containers (typically have a plastic clear lid and black bottom)
  • plastic egg cartons
  • plastic bags and film (see below for more)
  • hangers (they jam the sorting equipment)
  • wax paper or liners from cereal/cracker boxes
  • crinkly wrappers for chips and snacks
  • juice pouches
  • toothpaste tubes WHY? They are a mix of many different components
  • acrylic plastic
  • CDs/DVDs and jewel cases
  • styrofoamTM - please recycle at Alpha Ridge Landfill
  • K-Cups for Keurig machines - Why? See their website and check out a mail-in recycling program
  • motor oil or pesticide bottles

Metal Cans

YES (Clean. Empty. Dry)

  • aluminum, steel & tin cans (even pet food!)
  • EMPTY aerosol cans



  • aluminum foil/bakeware (recent change)
  • propane cylinders
  • pots, pans or other scrap metal
  • motor oil or other automotive fluid cans
  • metal hangers

Glass Bottles & Jars

YES (Clean. Empty. Dry.)

  • any color glass food or beverage containers



  • window glass
  • drinking glasses
  • mirrors
  • ceramics
  • crystal
  • fluorescent light bulbs or incandescent light bulbs
  • CorningWare or Pyrex

Print Me

Know Before You Throw Sign Printable Chart

Howard County Collection Guide coverPrintable Detailed List

Check Your Collection Days

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

Holidays That May Affect Collection

There are 6 holidays that may affect your curbside collections: New Year's Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. Trash, recycling and yard trim collections scheduled on or after these 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.

Additional Recycling Containers

Howard County residents who receive County trash and recycling curbside collection service are eligible to purchase additional recycling containers for their homes. Residents must be paying the Howard County residential refuse fee to purchase containers. We are no longer able to sell carts and bins to residents who receive private collection. 

18 gallon - $10.00 each
35 gallon - $40.00 each
65 gallon - $50.00 each

See more details on the following form.

Broken Cart? Different Size?

The County can deliver a new cart or different size. We also fix broken cart wheels and lids. Contact the Recycling Division at 410-313-6444. Please be patient as we work to complete requests.