The Recycling Division works closely with the Curbside Collections Division and Alpha Ridge Landfill to provide efficient curbside recycling service and specialty recycling and reuse programs. The division provides outreach material, tours, presentations and recycling program assistance to residents, schools and local businesses.

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Know Before You Throw

Learn how to sort your waste. Before tossing something, check our list to see if it can be reused, recycled or donated.

Recycling Facts and FAQs
What is Howard County's waste diversion rate?

In 2021, Howard County's waste diversion rate was 48.70%. 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 2021, Howard County recycled a total of 212,848 tons of material! This included 33,568 tons of recyclables collected curbside and 27,961 tons through drop-off programs at Alpha Ridge Landfill.

What’s in my blue recycling cart?

Paper and Cardboard – 61.3%
Glass Bottles – 11.6%
Aluminum Cans – 1.5%
Water & Soda Bottles – 4.1%
Metal Cans – 1.1%
Milk Containers - .7%
Liquid Detergent Containers – 1.3%
Other Plastic Containers (#3-7) – 2.6%
Rigid Plastics - 1.8%
Trash – 13.6%

    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 our other programs (textiles, yard trim, scrap metal, etc.). These items placed in the blue recycling carts are sorted out as trash and will not be recycled. Help us achieve a cleaner stream with our resources below!

    What's going on at the Alpha Ridge Landfill?

    In 2022, we gave away about 600 compost bins!

    We collected:

    • an average of 50 flags per month for retirement.
    • 1,800 bikes for Bikes for the World donated. 7,747 donated since program began in 2016
    • 2,036 mattresses and/or box springs
    • 36.71 tons of car batteries
    • 204.66 tons of tires
    • 204.78 tons of single stream
    • 186.95 tons of rigid plastics
    • 404.90 tons of cardboard
    • 13.39 tons of cooking oil
    How do I find out my curbside collection days?

    We have an online tool to check your collection days. For specific questions about curbside collections (trash, recycling, yard trim) please visit our Curbside Collections page. 

    Can I swap for a smaller or larger recycling cart or bin?

    Yes. Contact us 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 document shredding events each year; one in the Spring (April) and one in the Fall (October). Visit our Document Shredding page for upcoming dates.

    What should I do with...?

    We all have questions about what to do with certain items. 

    Learn how to properly recycle, reuse, donate or dispose of various items on our Know Before You Throw page. Questions about what's acceptable curbside? Visit our Curbside Collections page for all guidelines.

    What should I do with plastic bags?

    Please take your bags/film is to a participating 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 DVD 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.

    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.


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