Many jurisdictions in Maryland, and across the United States, are being challenged to keep their curbside recycling programs sustainable in the face of lower prices for recovered metals, plastics and paper, lower demand, and more stringent requirements from buyers of recovered commodities.
Like other local governments in the Baltimore area, Anne Arundel County has a contract to deliver the recyclables it collects to privately-owned Materials Recovery Facility in Elkridge.
Our contract requires the material we recycle to have a low “contamination” rate. This is because recyclables have little to no value if contamination rates are too high. Plastic bags are considered contamination and cannot be recycled.
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The Department of Public Works’ Bureau of Waste Management Services has promoted the curbside recycling program for decades. Over the past two years, special emphasis was made to stop customers from putting plastic bags in their recycling carts, containers, and bins.
This campaign included direct mail, social media messages, outreach at community events, and media that included newspaper, radio and television.
We recognize that even the most aggressive campaigns can’t cast the net wide enough to reach each and every one of our more than 164,000 participating households and small businesses.
So, for those who may have missed our messages, stickers are now being placed on recycling bins, containers and carts left behind that contain unacceptable items.
While 92% of the placed containers have met this challenge, about 8% of containers set out by customers have been tagged with a sticker in May.
Our goal from this direct-to-the-household notice is to ensure that we make contact with each participating household to answer any questions and provide specific information to correct problems.
We want to do everything within our power to prevent a situation where recyclable material could be rejected when it arrives at the Materials Recovery Facility. If these recyclable materials are rejected, there will be no other option but to place them in the landfill.
We are proud of our county recycling program and depend on it to save money, prolong the life of our active landfill, and help protect our environment.
So, please Know Before You Throw. Don’t bag your recycling. Recyclables need to be loose in order to be sorted at the facility. Plastic tarps, bags, hoses, tubing, and other items are not allowed in the recycling bin.
Food waste is not, and has never been, a part of the curbside recycling program. We encourage residents to take their plastic grocery bags back to the grocery stores which will accept them. We also offer this service at the facilities we operate.
Our hope is that all residents will continue to use the curbside recycling program for all that the program allows. Curbside recycling is convenient, cost-effective, and environmentally responsible.
Anne Arundel County goes a step further and offers even more recycling opportunities at our three residential Recycling Centers, and the Millersville Landfill and Resource Recovery Facility.
Additional information is available on the county website at https://www.aacounty.org/departments/public-works/waste-management/recycling/index.html.
Residents and communities in need of assistance or more information, please contact our Customer Service Representatives at 410-222-6100 on weekdays between 7:30 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Chris Phipps is the director of public works for Anne Arundel County.