Plastic Bag Transition

Plastic Bags:

No longer accepted for yard trim collection

As of January 1, 2016, all County yard trim services has made the transition to plastic bag free collection. Howard County's Department of Public Works phased out the use of plastic bags from Sept 14 through the end of December. Collected yard trim is taken to compost and mulch facilities. At these locations, plastic bags foul machinery and reduce the quality of finished compost and mulch products. Small plastic fragments also become air- and water-borne litter. Due to these factors, regional processors, including the County's contracted yard trim processor, no longer accept material in regular plastic bags.

Three options for packaging curbside yard trim:

  • Paper bags (see below for details about FREE paper bags)
  • Rigid reusable containers
  • Bundle brush with twine
  • Yard trim set out in plastic bags will not be collected. Residents will need to re-package the material and set it out on their next collection day.

    FREE Paper Bags

    Residents can earn a coupon for 10 free paper bags (one coupon per family, while supplies last) by completing an online survey. Residents can exchange their coupon for free paper bags at 4 locations in Howard County (coupon is required for free bag pickup). There are also many local and online retailers that carry paper bags. If you don't see paper bags at your favorite grocery or hardware store, ask for them! Click here for an information sheet, including retail locations that sell paper yard trim bags.

    Why are paper bags better than plastic bags?

    At home they are:

    • Easier to fill
    • More puncture resistant
    • Don't allow moisture to build, which helps prevent odors

    At a composting facility they:

    • Don't have to be emptied or removed before processing
    • Decompose naturally with yard trim
    • Don't need to be screened from finished compost and mulch
    • Don't become air- or water-borne litter

    What Else Can You Do?

    Consider Composting and Grasscycling at home - taking advantage of these techniques will save you time and lead to less trips to the curb!

    Do you have more leaves than you can compost at home? Need more leaves for your compost pile? Sign up for the Master Gardeners Rake and Take program!

    Frequently Asked Questions:

    Can I use biodegradable plastic bags?

      Residents should not use any type of plastic bag. including biodegradable plastic bags for grass, leaves, brush or branches. Why? Collection crews have difficulty telling the difference between regular plastic bags and biodegradable plastic bags. In an effort to make curbside collection efficient, no plastic bags, including biodegradable bags, will be accepted for yard trim collection.

    How much longer can I use plastic bags?

      All curbside yard trim customers have made the transition as of January 1, 2016. Howard County residents may no longer use plastic bags for curbside yard trim collection. 

    Why is the County making this change?

      The processors of yard trim and brush will no longer accept material in plastic bags, so therefore we can't collect yard trim in plastic bags.

    Can I still use plastic bags for trash? What about recycling?

      You may still use plastic bags for regular household trash, but we prefer you place recyclables loose in your blue recycling carts or bins (plastic bags get wrapped around the sorting equipment at the recycling processor).

    Where can I buy paper bags?

      There are many local and online retailers that carry paper bags. If you don't see paper bags at your favorite grocery or hardware store, ask for them!

    You say 'reusable containers' are OK - do they have to be plastic?

      You can use any type of reusable container, including metal or pop-up fabric containers.