Howard County’s Curbside Recycling Goes Plastic Bag Free

Howard County’s Department of Public Works’ Bureau of Environmental Services will no longer accept curbside recycling placed out in plastic bags starting on June 15, 2019. Here is the text from the press release:

May 13, 2019

Media Contacts:
Mark Miller, Administrator Office of Public Information, 410-313-2022
Alan Wilcom, Department of Public Works, 410-313-6433

Howard County’s Curbside Recycling Goes Plastic Bag Free

ELLICOTT CITY, MD – Effective Saturday, June 15, 2019, Howard County’s Department of Public Works’ Bureau of Environmental Services will no longer accept curbside recycling placed out in plastic bags. Items placed out for recycling, should be placed loose in the county assigned recycling bin/cart. Any plastic bagged recyclables will not be collected curbside. County residents will be receiving a postcard in the mail alerting them of this change.

“From expanding curbside composting to becoming more efficient with our recycling techniques, I am committed to making sure that Howard County is disposing of our waste in the most innovative and sustainable ways,” said Howard County Executive Calvin Ball. “Making Howard County the most environmentally friendly jurisdiction in the state and region is a goal of my administration and we ask that all of our residents adapt household practices that help us achieve a cleaner and greener future.”

Plastic bags and plastic film foul machinery, getting wrapped around recycling equipment and jamming the screens. Small plastic fragments also become air- and water-borne litter. Due to these factors, our contracted processor is no longer accepting recycling in plastic bags. The regional marketplace has contributed to this change.

“Market conditions have changed to the point that plastic bags and other film like material, when mixed in with other recyclable items, degrade the quality of the recycling stream output, making it no longer marketable,” said Bureau of Environmental Services Recycling Division Chief Alan Wilcom.

In addition, the county’s Alpha Ridge Landfill’s Residents Convenience Center will no longer accept items for recycling bagged in plastic.

County residents who wish to recycle their clean plastic bags and film may do so at participating local grocery stores, big box stores and other retailers who have plastic bag collection bins set up, normally inside the store’s front entrance. The Bureau of Environmental Services has developed a map showing participating locations, accessible from the Bureaus “Know Before You Throw” website under “Plastic Bags.”

For more information about recycling, visit or contact the Bureau of Environmental Services at 410-313-6444.


Click image below to view post from Howard County Government:

While I understand this initiative…I am a little confused at the speed at which this is happening. Announce on May 13 and implement on June 15. I am sure the postcards will help remind some…but I am also betting that many will not know this happened and there will be a some bags left on the side of roads after the first couple of recycle pick up dates.

Hopefully I am wrong and all will go smoothly. People in my own household tell me not to sweat it…so I wont much in this post.

I would still love to know what the rush is with the implementation. Maybe someone reading this article can better explain it to me in the near future.

Scott E

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  1. I thought the bags were banned over a year ago. So, this is news to me. If I don’t have an empty cardboard box as an inside collection bin, I use the lawn and leaf bags to keep things neat.


  2. Oh great. Now that is more trash I get to pick up on my property because they miss putting it in the trucks. I can then put it in a plastic bag for regular trash day.


  3. The big bins are too big to keep in our small garages with two vehicles. If we can’t use plastic bags as containers, fine. But either let us use cardboard box containers or give us an option of multiple smaller collapsable containers we can store. Some people resort to storing their blue container outside in the driveway. I don’t think that helps with curb appeal. I just don’t think the logistics is easy. We’d all like to comply, but being forced to use those huge bins doesn’t make sense. By the way, they are plastic, so a delay. Why not cardboard?


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