Our Know Before You Throw campaign is designed to assist Howard County residents and businesses with sorting their waste properly. Before you toss something, check our list to see if it can be reused, recycled or donated.
Is something missing from our list? Let us know as we continue to keep our page up to date.
Go Green at the Grocery Store
Be a sustainable shopper! We're here to help you make environmentally friendly choices at your local grocery store, carry-out restaurant and other food establishments.
Air pillows & bubble wrap are not acceptable in curbside recycling collection or at Alpha Ridge Landfill. These items and other plastic films get wrapped around recycling equipment and jam the screens at the processor causing a lot of damage to the curbside recycling processor equipment. Please consider reusing these items for shipping/packaging purposes.
If you are unable to reuse them, they can be recycled with Plastic Bags & Film at participating grocery and retail stores.
Aluminum foil and bakeware are no longer accepted in curbside recycling. However, you can take it to the scrap metal area at the Residents' Convenience Center for recycling.
NEW! We've created a guide to help you navigate proper disposal and recycling of shipping and packaging materials. Don't see an item on our poster? Contact us and we'll let you know how it should be handled!
For Amazon-specific packaging, please see their website for proper recycling and disposal.
Before disposal, consider donating boxes, bags & bubble wrap to HorseSpirit Arts Gallery (8600 Foundry Street, Savage, MD). Packaging material must be in good condition.
American Flags can be retired at the Residents' Convenience Center at Alpha Ridge Landfill.
Representatives from the American Legion Adams, Hanna, Moore Memorial Post 156, retrieve the flags and dispose of them in a dignified fashion as required by the U.S. Flag Code. Ceremonies are conducted in coordination with local Scout troops.
Antifreeze should NOT be poured down the drain.
Antifreeze (not mixed with oil or other substances) can be recycled at the Residents' Convenience Center at Alpha Ridge Landfill Monday-Saturday 8am to 4pm. Please leave container for attendant to empty.
Have older items that you think may be valuable? Check out nearby consignment stores to resell those items.
Working appliances should be reused/donated.
For non-working appliances, schedule a Scrap Metal Collection (call 410-313-6444) or take appliances (toasters, mixers, toaster ovens, coffee makers, etc.) to the scrap metal area at the Residents' Convenience Center at Alpha Ridge Landfill.
Refrigerators (doors removed), air conditioners and dehumidifiers must be placed next to the scrap metal drop-off so the Freon can be removed.
Donate usable items, such a strollers and high chairs to a local charity or second-hand store like The Birthing Circle.
Have an old car seat? Check out Target's car seat trade-in program. Or remove the padding from the car seat to recycle the plastic part with curbside recycling or at the Residents' Convenience Center Alpha Ridge Landfill.
Have unused diapers or wipes? Donate them to the Howard County Diaper Project through the Office of Children and Families.
Donate usable binders to your favorite charity. Prepare for Success has locations in Howard County.
Spiral bound paper notebooks and binders are NOT acceptable in our curbside recycling program.
Gently used hard & soft cover books can be taken to our NEW drop-off at the Residents' Convenience Center at Alpha Ridge Landfill. See below for additional options.
- Howard County library
- MD Book Bank
- Better World Books (local drop-off locations)
- The Book Thing of Baltimore (and free pickup)
- Discover Books
- Operation Paperback
Check out the link below to recycle and reuse used and unused bras. Bras can also be donated to Goodwill, Salvation Army, Purple Heart, Planet Aid, etc.
When shopping, ask contractors if they recycle used carpet. Visit the Carpet America Recovery Effort for details.
Carpet/rug can be taken to Alpha Ridge Landfill to be disposed as trash (tip fee applies).
Donate usable car seats to the Baltimore Pregnancy Center.
If they're old or ruined, please remove all fabric, padding and straps and take them to the ARL Residents' Convenience Center Rigid Plastics area for recycling. Target has a periodic trade-in program for used car seats.
Not all containers are recyclable. Check out our guide for correct disposal of carry out/take out containers. Our Sustainable Shopping page is a great resource to help navigate packaging, ecolabels and confusing recycling symbols.
Usable CDs or DVDs should be donated to your local library, Goodwill or The Salvation Army. For kid's DVDs, contact your local pediatric hospital. Check the links below for recycling options.
Recycle cell phones with Electronics at the Residents' Convenience Center at Alpha Ridge Landfill or take them back to your cell phone company. MOM's accepts them for recycling through Secure the Call. Also, visit Swappa, Sell Cell or Green Buyback to get paid for recycling.
Or try these reuse options!
Please put incandescent and LED bulbs in your household trash and refer to the CFL recycling poster for proper disposal of other bulbs and tubes.
Working lights can be donated to Goodwill or Salvation Army. Broken/dead strands can be taken to the Residents' Convenience Center at Alpha Ridge Landfill and recycled with electronics (DO NOT put in your curbside recycling).
Undecorated artificial trees and wreaths can be recycled with scrap metal at the Residents' Convenience Center at Alpha Ridge Landfill.
Undecorated live trees and wreaths can be recycled in the Wood Waste Area at Alpha Ridge Landfill. During the holiday season, visit our Merry Mulch webpage for drop-off sites.
At this time, Waste Management is unable to recycle #1 plastic clamshells due to the way they are manufactured. While we wait for technology and markets, avoid purchasing items in clamshells and consider reusing to keep those clamshells out of the trash.
NEW! Waste Management is now accepting ALL #5 plastics, including #5 clamshells. If it has a #5, it goes in the blue bin!
Donate clothing to local shelters or charities, such as
Or, bring gently used clothing to the Residents' Convenience Center at Alpha Ridge Landfill for donation. Have items that aren't wearable? Donate them! Many donation organization partner with rag manufacturers. Also check out The North Face's ClothesTheLoop program.
- Success in Style in Savage Mill collects new or gently worn business clothing and accessories.
- Dress for Success accepts women's interview attire via mail-in or drop-off.
- Visit Career Gear to donate men's interview attire,
During the spring, MOM's Organic Market hosts a Denim Drive for all types of denim including colored, embellished, and printed. Denim is recycled into insulation for charitable organizations to use in community housing projects. Clean, dry denim may be brought to MOM's only during the published dates. The rest of the year, denim can be taken to stores like Madewell, H&M, and Levi's.
At this time, coffee pods are not recyclable in Howard County. However, the coffee inside the pods can be composted in your backyard compost pile.
Coffee pods companies Keurig & Nespresso both offer recycling solutions for their products.
Terracycle also offers a mail-in program for all coffee pods, discs and capsules.
Propane, helium & oxygen tanks and fire extinguishers (empty or filled) are accepted at Residents' Convenience Center at Alpha Ridge Landfill. Or, return tanks to the seller.
Whether it's a huge renovation or small home project, please visit our Construction & Demolition page for what to do with debris material you no longer need.
Used cooking oil can be recycled at the Residents' Convenience Center at Alpha Ridge Landfill Monday-Saturday, 8am to 4pm. Check out our cooking oil poster for more information.
Certain arts & craft supplies can be taken to Scrap B-more, a donation-based creative reuse and donation store in Baltimore. Their list of acceptable and unacceptable items changes occasionally, so please check their website for up-to-date information.
Please visit our Curbside Collections page.
Check out our donation directory for local options to drop-off or have items picked up.
Swap videos and DVDs with Video Fitness.
If you have an old EZ-Pass, please return it to a drop box at an EZ-Pass Customer Service Location.
Or, bring the pass to a Household Hazardous Waste Drop-off Day at the Alpha Ridge Landfill (Saturdays ONLY, April-November).
Fire extinguishers and other compressed gas tanks such as propane, helium, & oxygen tanks are accepted at the Residents' Convenience Center at Alpha Ridge Landfill for recycling. Also consider returning tanks to the seller.
NEW! There are many different types of food delivery packaging. We've created a guide to help you navigate proper disposal and recycling of shipping and packaging materials. Don't see an item on our poster? Contact us and we'll let you know how it should be handled!
Compost items such as banana peels, vegetable scraps, coffee grounds and egg shells to make a nutrient-rich soil.
Check to see if you're in our Feed The Green Bin collection area. If you are, sign up to get a FREE green bin. If not, check out these private collection companies:
If your area doesn't receive collection (yet), you can drop-off food scraps at the Residents' Convenience Center at Alpha Ridge Landfill for composting or take those food scraps to My Organic Market (MOM's) which offers composting as well!
Terracycle offers various recycling programs for adult and baby food squeeze pouches and caps.
Used furnace filters belong in the trash. If you have filters that are new, consider donating them to a charity such as Restore.
There are many local donation options and pick-up organizations to give your used furniture and home goods a second life. Think your furniture is beyond repair and not good enough for donation? Think again! Give those items a chance and donate them. Check out our donation directory for local options. If your items are truly trash and have no life left, we can accept them for bulk trash.
Freetown Farm accepts garden hoses (any length, condition, material, or type) for donation to design a drip irrigation system for the fields. Hoses can be dropped off at 8000 Harriet Tubman Lane. For questions, please email Chiara.
Recycle any color glass bottles & jars in your curbside recycling or at the Residents' Convenience Center at Alpha Ridge Landfill.
Please remember that glass must be Clean. Empty. Dry. We do not accept window glass, drinking glasses, mirrors, ceramics, crystal, CorningWare or Pyrex.
Grills can be recycled with scrap metal. Contact our office to schedule a collection.
Recycle your grill at the Residents' Convenience Center at Alpha Ridge Landfill. You can also recycle your propane tank at Alpha Ridge in the compressed gas tank area. Please do NOT put gas tanks in the scrap metal area.
There are many charitable organizations that accept hair donations to be made into wigs. Before donating, please research organizations and check guidelines/qualifications for donations.
Hair & Fur Donations
A Matter of Trust accepts hair, fur and fleece donations in any amount. The fibers are felted into mats that are used by hazmat teams in oil spill cleanups.
Contact your local donation center to see if they need hangers. Reuse is the best option. Plastic hangers are not recyclable because they can jam processing equipment at the recycling plant.
Contact your local dry cleaner to see if they take back wire hangers or reuse them with these great craft ideas. Wire hangers are not recyclable in your blue bin because they can jam processing equipment at the recycling plant. However, you can tape them together and bring them to Alpha Ridge Landfill to recycle them with scrap metal.
Appalachian Wildlife Refuge accepts used mascara wands during the months of October and February through its Wands for Wildlife program. Before mailing, wands must be washed in warm soapy water to remove residual mascara.
Visit our Household Hazardous Waste page.
Juice pouches and crinkly wrappers from chips and snack bars are not recyclable in your curbside bin.
However, Terracycle collects wrappers and pouches to make handbags, pencil cases and more. Your local school may have a collection program.
Please put incandescent and LED bulbs in your household trash and refer to our CFL Recycling poster for proper disposal of other bulbs and tubes.
Always be sure to cap your markers when you're finished, that way you can help them last as long as possible! Please remember that markers are not recyclable in your blue bin. If you have old markers that have been loved so much that their color is dry, Crayola's ColorCycle program works with elementary schools to turn markers into energy.
Masks, gloves and other PPE are NOT acceptable in our curbside recycling program. Please dispose of these items in your curbside trash.
Mattresses & box springs can be recycled at the Residents' Convenience Center at Alpha Ridge Landfill.
Residents can also schedule curbside bulk trash collection by calling 410-313-6444. Mattresses & box springs collected at the curb will NOT be recycled. If possible, take them to the Alpha Ridge to give them a chance to be made into something new! Ikea now has a mattress recycling program too!
In coordination with the Loan Closet of Howard County residents can now drop-off durable, reusable medical equipment at the Residents' Convenience Center at Alpha Ridge Landfill.
Items Accepted: Bathing Aids (shower & bath), Canes, Ramps (modular/portable), Therapy Aids, Toilet Aids, Walkers and Manual Wheelchairs.
Items Not Accepted: Hospital beds*, CPAP machines, Items missing pieces, Broken Items, Oxygen Tanks, Prescription medications, Expired medical supplies, Mattresses, Items containing mercury or Items requiring calibration.
*Hospital beds can be donated to the Anne Arundel Food and Resource Bank 410-923-4255, ALS Society 1-301-978-9855 or MD Tap Program 410-554-9232.
DO NOT flush unwanted medications down the toilet.
Howard County Police Department:
- Northern District Station (3410 Courthouse Drive in Ellicott City)
- Southern District Station (11226 Scaggsville Road in Laurel)
- Community Outreach Building (10741 Little Patuxent Parkway)
- Gary Arthur Community Center (2400 Route 97 in Cooksville)
- Attend a medication disposal event hosted by HCDrugFree.
- Local pharmacies may offer take-back or mail-in programs. Rite Aid, CVS and Giant sell prepaid envelopes that can be mailed to a disposal facility.
- Place pills or liquid 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.
Once you have safely disposed of the medication, recycle the empty medicine bottles.
Accepted in curbside recycling or at the Residents' Convenience Center at Alpha Ridge Landfill.
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
Did you know that certain microbeads used in body and face scrubs are now banned? Plastic beads that are made of polyethylene or polypropylene do not break down and can damage marine life. Some companies, like Proctor & Gamble, have pledged to stop using the beads, but if you have products that contain plastic microbeads, it's best to toss the closed container in the trash.
See "Sharps" below.
Motor oil, oil filters and hydraulic oils (brake, transmission or power steering) can be taken to the Residents' Convenience Center at Alpha Ridge Landfill.
Don't just shuck 'em and chuck 'em. Bring your empty oyster and clam shells to the Robinson Nature Center for reuse. Shells will be picked up by the Oyster Recovery Partnership and taken to the Horn Point Laboratory Oyster Hatchery where they will be cleaned and reseeded with oyster larvae before being reintroduced into the Bay.
- Calculate exactly what you need to avoid leftovers
- Hold a paint swap so usable paint doesn't go to waste
- Mix white (or colored) paints together to give walls or furniture a fresh look.
- Make chalk paint from leftover paint.
Solidify old and unusable paint by adding an absorbent material such as cat litter, shredded newspaper, sawdust or a paint hardener. If there isn't much paint left in the can, leave the lid off to air dry. Once solidified, leave the lid off so the contractors can see it's solid and set it out with your regular trash.
Accepted with curbside recycling or can be taken to the Residents' Convenience Center at Alpha Ridge Landfill. Paper recyclables must be CLEAN and DRY.
- milk & juice cartons
- aseptic packaging (drink, milk, soups, food)
- newspapers & inserts
- books (paperback, hardback, phone books)
- junk mail (NEW! No windowed envelopes)
- boxes (food, snack, shoe, toys)
- gift wrap (non-shiny/non-foil 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)
Terracycle has a Pens, Pencils and Markers Zero Waste box available to recycle your writing instruments!
Unfortunately, most are not recyclable.
These bags are typically layers of different materials and once those layers are together, it's hard to get components separated so that they can be made into new things. Still not sure? Do the 'tear test'....if you can easily tear the bag and don't see a plastic film layer mixed with the paper, it's good to go for recycling. This holds true for some paper plates and gift wrap too.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle - in that order. Use reusable bags so you have fewer plastic bags. If you can't reuse, then recycle at a participating retail store.
All plastic bags and film are not accepted 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, bottles of water, etc., produce bags, frozen vegetable bags, food storage bags, bubble wrap and air filled bags for packaging.
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 to the curbside recycling processor equipment.
Certain plastics are accepted in our curbside recycling program and at the Residents' Convenience Center at Alpha Ridge Landfill.
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.
Donate usable pots and pans to a charity, such as Goodwill or the Salvation Army. Unusable pots and pans can be recycled with scrap metal at the Residents' Convenience Center at Alpha Ridge Landfill.
You can add your carved/uncarved pumpkins and gourds to your curbside yard trim pickup. Or, take them to the food scrap drop-off at the Residents' Convenience Center at Alpha Ridge Landfill.
Many store receipts are printed on thermal paper, a shiny smooth paper that allows for printing via heat transfer instead of ink. These receipts are difficult to recycle and are NOT accepted in our curbside collection program.
Opt for digital or paperless receipts whenever possible to cut down on the amount of thermal receipts generated.
See our Rigid Plastics poster for recycling information.
See our link below for some reuse options.
As a last resort, shingles can be disposed for a charge at Alpha Ridge Landfill (see our page for tip fee rate).
Place used (or unused) needles in an empty plastic bottle (ex. detergent bottle) to protect the trash collection crew. When the bottle is full, add the cap and put the bottle in your TRASH.
- Your local pharmacy may offer disposal or exchange services
- Attend a Drug Take Back event hosted by HCDrugFree
NEW! We've created a guide to help you navigate proper disposal and recycling of shipping and packaging materials. Don't see an item on our poster? Contact us and we'll let you know how it should be handled!
Certain items like Styrofoam peanuts and bubble wrap can be reused. If you can't reuse it, contact your UPS, FedEx or local shipping store to see if they will reuse it. Many locations are happy to take these items back.
Before disposal, consider donating boxes, bags & bubble wrap to HorseSpirit Arts Gallery (8600 Foundry Street, Savage, MD). Packaging material must be in good condition. For buying, donating and selling, check out BoxGiver.
Think before you shred! Don't shred unnecessarily. Once you have shredded paper, you can use it in your garden.
Shredded paper can also be placed in a paper bag (no plastic bags), stapled shut, and added to your curbside recycling. Why bagged? Loose shredded paper is like confetti and will make a mess at the facility.
Silicone kitchen items and bakeware cannot be recycled in Howard County. However, Terracycle has a Kitchen Separation Zero Waste Box which may accept these types of items.
Howard County currently doesn't have a separate collection for smoke detectors. According to the EPA, they may be placed in your regular trash.
Snack bags are NOT recyclable in curbside recycling program. However, Terracycle offers various recycling programs for these items.
Register a soap drive! Or, reuse soap leftovers with ideas below.
Recycle solar lights and get money for your next purchase.
Trade or sell sports equipment at Play It Again Sports.
Golf Clubs: The First Tee of Howard County accepts good condition golf equipment to help Howard County children gain valuable life skills.
Hockey Equipment: Restore Hockey cleans, refurbishes and repairs used equipment and then donates the items to children, families and organizations.
Send stamps to Stamp Out Poverty.
Salvation Army and other donation organizations may collect stuffed animals, just give your favorite donation location a call to double-check. Check out Teddy Bear Brigade for mail-in programs or contact your local churches and daycares to see if they're interested in gently used stuffed animals.
NEW! As of July 1, 2020 Styrofoam™ #6 is no longer accepted at the Residents' Convenience Center at Alpha Ridge Landfill. This is largely due to the ban on expanded polystyrene (Styrofoam™) food packaging that recently went into effect in Maryland. Styrofoam™ products are NOT acceptable in our curbside recycling program.
Please visit the EPS Industry Alliance for other recycling opportunities that may be available.
Styrofoam™ peanuts are NOT acceptable in our curbside recycling program. Local packing and shipping stores may accept them for reuse. Just ask!
Certain items that we call ‘Tanglers’ are NOT acceptable in our curbside recycling program, however, there are ways to recycle or reuse some of them.
Christmas tree lights can be taken to the Residents' Convenience Center at Alpha Ridge Landfill and other retail stores (see Christmas & Holiday Lights section). Power cords and extension cords can also be brought to the Residents' Convenience Center and recycled with Electronics.
Wire hangers can be returned to dry cleaners for reuse, and plastic bags and plastic film can be returned to participating grocery stores.
Howard County's Department of Recreation & Parks has launched a Pilot Tennis Ball Recycling Program at Centennial Park. Collection bins are located at the West and North Tennis Courts.
Donate old tennis balls to your local nursing/retirement community to be used on the feet of walkers.
Or, start a collection drive and send them to
Purchase zero waste boxes through Terracycle and recycle almost everything. Choose the box that suits your needs.
Recycle automobile and truck tires at the Residents' Convenience Center at Alpha Ridge Landfill. (Commercial haulers see Landfill Fee Schedule).
We do NOT accept tires on rims, tires over 4' in diameter or over 15" in width.
NOTE: Rims can be recycled in the scrap metal container. Limit of 4 tires per year.
Some animal shelters may accept new or gently used towels.
Set up a toy swap with friends and neighbors. Donate old toys to Salvation Army, Goodwill, Freecycle or other options on our donation directory.
If the vacuum still works, please consider donating it to your favorite charity. If the vacuum cannot be fixed, recycle it with Electronics at the Residents' Convenience Center at Alpha Ridge Landfill.
Untreated wood and lumber can be taken to the Wood Waste Area at Alpha Ridge Landfill for recycling into mulch.
Treated wood/lumber and railroad ties should be taken to Alpha Ridge Landfill and will be considered Construction & Demolition Debris, which is not recyclable and will be charged a tip fee.
Crinkly wrappers from chips and snack bars are NOT acceptable in our curbside recycling program, however, Terracycle collects wrappers to make handbags, pencil cases and more. Your local school may have a collection program.
Some radiology offices will accept old x-rays for recycling, check with yours! (for example, Advanced Radiology will take them back).
Visit our Curbside Collections page.
Donate gently used yoga mats to Yoga Activist.