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Maryland State Government Maryland Department of the Environment

Frequently Asked Questions About Waste Diversion

  1. What is the Maryland Recycling Law?
  2. What is Maryland’s recycling rate?
  3. What materials count towards the Maryland Recycling Act (MRA) recycling rate?
  4. What comprises the source reduction credit?
  5. What are White Goods?
  6. How is a specific material recycled?
  7. Where can I recycle specific materials?
  8. How can I start a recycling program at my work?
  9. How can I start a recycling program at my school?
  10. Are businesses required to recycle in Maryland?
  11. Does Maryland Government participate in recycling?
  12. Where can I get a recycling bin?
  13. When is my recycling day?
  14. How can I recycle computers and other electronic equipment?
  15. How can I recycle batteries?
  16. I live in an apartment. How can I recycle?
  17. Who is responsible for recycling programs in the state?
  18. Aside from collecting items for recycling, what can I do to help?
  19. How do I get rid of grass clippings and yard trimmings?
  20. How do I get rid of things like detergents, paint products and fertilizers/pesticides?

Contact MDE's Waste Diversion Program for questions on waste diversion, recycling, and source reduction that are not answered above.


What is the Maryland Recycling Law?

In 1988, the Maryland Recycling Act (MRA) authorized MDE to reduce the disposal of solid waste in Maryland through management, education and regulation. The MRA requires that:

  • Each of Maryland’s jurisdictions develop and implement recycling programs. Jurisdictions with populations greater than 150,000 are required to recycle 20% of their waste and jurisdictions with populations less than 150,000 are required to recycle 15% of their waste. In no case is the recycling rate to be less than 10%.
  • If a jurisdiction fails to meet the specified reductions, State and local authorities can prohibit the issuance of building permits for all new construction.
  • Each jurisdiction select materials to be recycled and the manner in which materials are to be separated and processed.
  • State agencies participate in recycling programs.
  • Newsprint and telephone directories distributed in the State have a recycled content, by weight, of 30% in 2001, increasing to 40% by 2005.

Additional legislation impacting recycling in Maryland includes:

  • Banning separately collected yard waste from disposal at solid waste acceptance facilities.
  • Requiring permits for private natural wood waste recycling facilities.
  • Counties to consider the feasibility of composting solid waste when developing solid waste management plans.
  • Including composting in the definition of recycling and be counting it when calculating the recycling goal.
  • The MD Department of Agriculture product standards for compost intended for commercial use (COMAR 15.18.04.06 et. seq.).
  • Mercuric oxide battery manufacturers be responsible for the collection, transportation, and recycling or disposal of these batteries sold or offered for promotional purposes in the State.
  • Establishing a program or system for the collection, recycling, or disposal of each cell, rechargeable battery or rechargeable product sold in the State.
  • Establishing a voluntary, Statewide waste diversion goal of 40% by the year 2005. The goal consists of a 35% MRA recycling rate plus up to 5% credit for source reduction activities.

In March of 2001, Executive Order 01.01.2001.02 Sustaining Maryland's Future with Clean Power, Green Buildings and Energy Efficiency was signed. The Executive Order rededicates Maryland Government's commitment to recycling by requiring, State agencies to annually divert or recycle at least 20% of the waste they generate.

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What is Maryland’s recycling rate?

A more accurate question here is probably "What is Maryland's Waste Diversion Rate?" Calendar year 2000, marked the first year that Maryland's jurisdictions can get credit for source reduction. The source reduction credit plus the recycling rate make up the waste diversion rate.

Maryland's residents and businesses should be very proud of the fact that they had a 42.6% waste diversion rate in 2005. This consisted of a 39.2% MRA recycling rate and a 3.4% source reduction credit. For more detailed information on the 2005 rates, access the "State Statistics" section.

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What materials count towards the Maryland Recycling Act (MRA) recycling rate?

The Maryland Department of the Environment tracks the following MRA materials for the MRA recycling statistics. Please note there are also a wide range of Non-MRA materials being recycled in the State. Contact your County Recycling Coordinator for information on other materials recycled in your area.

Maryland Recycling Act Materials
Compostables Grass, Leaves, and Mixed Yard Waste
Wood Waste
Food Waste
Glass Mixed Glass
Fluorescent Light Tubes
Metals Aluminum Cans
Tin/Steel Cans
White Goods
Paper Corrugated Cardboard
Mixed Paper
Newspaper
Telephone Directories
White Paper
Plastic Mixed Plastic Bottles
Other Materials Laser Toner Cartridges
Lead Acid Batteries (e.g., car batteries)
Oil Filters
Municipal Solid Waste-To-Energy Facility Ash
Wood Pallets
Non-Maryland Recycling Act Materials
Automobile Components Antifreeze
Motor Oil
Scrap Automobiles
Construction /
Building Materials
Asphalt
Concrete
Wood
Other Materials Cleaning Fluids
Land Clearing Debris (includes tree stumps and vegetative debris)
Scrap Metal
Sewage Sludge

In calendar year 2005, as much Non-MRA materials were recycled in Maryland as traditional recyclables (MRA).

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What comprises the source reduction credit?

The source reduction credit was implemented to recognize the important role source reduction plays in waste management. Simply put, you don't have to deal with waste if you don't make it. Some examples of source reduction activities include: promotion of grasscycling, coordination of a textile reuse project, and development of a permanent food composting demonstration sites. To promote this, Maryland's jurisdictions can earn up to a 5% source reduction credit that counts towards their Waste Diversion Rate. This is divided into a 2% source reduction credit can be earned for programs that promote the reduction of yard trimmings, and a 3% source reduction credit can be earned for programs that reduce waste in general. View the source reduction credit checklist.

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What are White Goods?

White goods are appliances such as washers, dryers, refrigerators, stoves, etc.

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How is a specific material recycled?

The Maryland Department of the Environment has created a fact sheet to describe the recycling process and a description of the products that are made from the recycled materials. View the fact sheet "Beyond the Curb".

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Where can I recycle specific materials?

This is a very popular question here at Maryland Department of the Environment. There are some great sources of information for the answer.

  • A. Residential: This information is maintained on MDE's web page under the "Recycling at Home" heading. However, since each Maryland jurisdiction is responsible for implementing the recycling programs for its residents, the local coordinators will have the most up-to-date and accurate information. Click here.
  • B. Commercial: If your business/office is looking for a hauler or recycler for specific materials, we recommend that you take advantage of an interactive database on the World Wide Web. The database was created by the Maryland Department of the Environment through a grant from the EPA. The website is maintained by the Northeast Maryland Waste Disposal Authority and is available by clicking on the link here or under the "Commercial Recycling at Work" heading or by typing www.mdrecycles.org. From this site, the browser clicks on the "Recycling Directory" or "Reuse Directory" for a range of categories that contain recyclers or reuse organizations for the specified materials. Northeast Waste Disposal Authority will regularly update the list, making it an accurate source of information on recycling businesses in the state.

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How can I start a recycling program at my work?

Pursuing a recycling program for your work place is one of the best and easiest things you can do to help save energy, natural resources, and money.

If your office has decided to research the possibilities of starting a recycling program, take a look at the Commercial Recycling at Work section of MDE's recycling webpage. The links section contains links to the Northeast Maryland Waste Disposal Authority (www.mdrecycles.org), Businesses for the Bay (www.b4bay.org), and Montgomery County (www.mcrecycles.org) just to name a few. The information available on these sites contains information on how to set-up and maintain an office recycling program.

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How can I start a recycling program at my school?

Your county recycling coordinator can be a big help in this process by helping you to identify what you could collect and how the program would work. Be sure to begin a dialog with the county recycling coordinator where the school is located to assure that all county regulations and procedures are followed.

Find out how to start an aluminum recycling program at your school by visiting www.recycle.alcan.com.  For a guide to paper recycling at school, please see the Paper Industry Association Council's website at http://www.paperrecycles.org/school_recycling/index.html.  Information on plastic recycling, can be found at www.napcor.com/toolkit.htm.

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Are businesses required to recycle in Maryland?

Except for a few counties, businesses in Maryland recycle on a voluntary basis. They do so because it often saves them money on their waste disposal fees. Because businesses may be paid (at market value) for recyclables, they may find trash disposal costs reduced as a result of recycling. Contact your local recycling coordinator for details about where you live. Help for setting up an office recycling program can be found on the "How can I start a recycling program at my work?" heading on this web page.

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Does Maryland Government participate in recycling?

One of the provisions of the Maryland Recycling Act focuses on the waste generated by State government. It requires that the Maryland Department of the Environment, in cooperation with other State agencies, develop a Recycling Plan for State government generated solid waste. This plan must reduce the solid waste stream by at least 20% or to an amount that is determined practical and economically feasible, but in no case may the amount to be recycled be less than 10%.

Executive Order 01.01.2001.02 Sustaining Maryland's Future with Clean Power, Green Buildings, and Energy Efficiency was signed in 2001.  The Executive Order re-energized Maryland's commitment to State office building recycling by requiring State agencies to annually divert or recycle at least 20% of the waste they generate.

The State Government employs over 85,000 people throughout Maryland. The All StAR (All State Agencies Recycle) program was coined to identify government recycling programs. Prior to the Act, a number of agencies were involved in some type of recycling activities through their own initiative or through volunteer staff efforts. Since a formal recycling program has been implemented, participation has increased considerably.

State Purchasing Programs

Beyond the Maryland Recycling Act, the State law regarding the purchase of goods with recycled content is specified in the Annotated Code of Maryland, State Finance and Procurement Section. The following summarizes the existing laws:

1. All prospective suppliers must address whether the procurement contains recycled materials and, if so, at what level.

2. To the extent practicable, 40% of the paper purchased by the State shall be recycled paper. ("Recycled Paper" is defined as containing minimum 80% post-consumer recycled content.)

3. Procurement specifications had to be re-written to require the use of supplies and materials containing recycled materials, to the extent practicable.

4. A 5% price preference is allowable for the purchase of products containing recycled material. This means that if the lowest bidder has not included recycled content in the bid, the purchaser may choose a bidder for up to 5% more cost if the bid includes recycled content.

In addition to State law, the Governor issued an executive order in 1991 (01.01.1991.20), that states, "To the greatest extent practicable, within State Agencies, photocopied and printed reproductions of original multi-page documents should be made utilizing both sides of a sheet of paper."

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Where can I get a recycling bin?

Some counties or municipalities will provide a recycling bin to its citizens. Please check with your recycling coordinator for details where you live.

If your community does not supply a recycling bin to its residents then you can use other methods to take your recyclables to the curb or a recycling center. Cardboard boxes are a good carrier because then the box is recycled as well. Although recycling centers do not often recycle plastic grocery bags, they are still an acceptable method of transporting some recyclables. Recycling bins or bags may be purchased at many retail locations. Check to see that your recycling bin is made from recycled material, however, so that you can continue to "close the loop."

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When is my recycling day?

If your community has curbside pickup then your community determines pick-up schedules. Please check with your recycling coordinator for the schedule.

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How can I recycle computers and other electronic equipment?

There is a strong need for computer recycling these days due to the rapid obsolescence of computer systems. That leaves many computers being transported to the landfill. There are many reasons why that shouldn’t be done. For one, computer screens contain levels of lead and mercury, which may contaminate ground water. Computers are also recyclable and often reusable. Non-profit organizations exist which will recondition discarded computers and update them for schools or non-profit organizations.  In 2006, MDE underwent an extensive educational outreach campaign to raise the public's awareness about the dangers of improper disposal of obsolete computers and electronics.  Click here to view the eCycling TV commercial.

Individuals that have computers to recycle can get a list of County sponsored drop-off locations here.

Additionally, many counties in Maryland have established permanent electronic drop-off facilities.

If these are not convenient or if you are a business we recommend that you consult the database of computer and electronics recyclers and reusers by clicking www.mdrecycles.org.

The database was created by the Maryland Department of the Environment through a grant from the EPA. The website, hosted by the Northeast Maryland Waste Disposal Authority, is designed to help small and medium sized businesses recycle more products more effectively.

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How can I recycle batteries?

Because batteries may contain potentially hazardous materials such as cadmium or other heavy metals, they should not be disposed of in landfills or incinerated. Maryland’s State law requires Mercuric oxide battery (button battery) manufacturers be responsible for the collection, transportation, and recycling or disposal of these batteries sold or offered for promotional purposes in the State. Also, each cell, rechargeable battery or rechargeable product sold in the State is covered by a program or system for the collection, recycling, or disposal of the item. More than 90% of the lead-acid batteries, like those in cars and boats, are recycled and reused for new batteries. In addition to the lead metal in the batteries, both the plastic cases and the electrolyte are also reclaimed and reprocessed for use in new batteries.

Many retail stores, especially those that sell rechargeable batteries, will accept rechargeable batteries for recycling. Call2Recycle®, a national non-profit trade association has established a toll-free telephone number 1-(800) 8BATTERY to help customers find the location of collectors.

Many counties also accept batteries as part of their Household Hazardous Waste collection programs (along with other hazardous materials such as antifreeze, used motor oil, household cleaners, drain openers, paint, adhesives, pesticides, fertilizers, and others). Check with your County Recycling Coordinator for additional information.

Batteries can be recycled. The heavy metals can be removed, reprocessed or sold as scrap metal and, depending on the battery type, other components such as plastic housings can be recycled, as well. Batteries not recycled must be disposed of as hazardous waste. So, start collecting your batteries for proper handling.

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I live in an apartment. How can I recycle?

Municipal or county-operated curbside-recycling programs generally do not serve apartment buildings. More counties and municipalities are instituting recycling programs for multi-family dwellings over time. If you live in an apartment building, you can certainly recycle. One way is to ask your building property manager to set-up a recycling program. If not, a list of County drop-offs is available on MDE's recycling web page.

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Who is responsible for recycling programs in the state?

All solid waste management programs in the state of Maryland are the responsibility of local governments. Within the counties, many municipalities operate their own solid waste management programs. This includes recycling. The Maryland Department of the Environment collects information from the counties to determine compliance with all state regulations and offers technical support to the counties. For specific information on your recycling program, contact your County Recycling Coordinator.

The Maryland Waste Diversion Activities Report to the Governor and General Assembly, published by the Maryland Department of the Environment, is available as an Adobe Acrobat file under the "Publications".  This report is presented annually to the Governor and the Legislature in compliance with the Maryland Recycling Act. Within it you can find among other things, the recycling rate for your county, facts about each county's program, and the materials recycled b Maryland's citizens and businesses.

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Aside from collecting items for recycling, what can I do to help?

There are several things that citizens can do to reduce waste in Maryland. The first is to follow the other two "R’s": reduce and reuse. Though today’s society has a seemingly never-ending supply of goods, a throwaway culture can be harmful to the environment.

Reduce

There are many ways to prevent waste from entering the waste stream. Buying products that will require infrequent replacement is one way. Also, the redesign of a product to use fewer raw materials in production or packaging will also reduce the amount of waste. Since the reduction of waste prevents the generation of waste in the first place, it is the most preferred method of waste management and goes a long way toward protecting the environment.

Reuse

Reusing items by repairing them, donating them to charity and community groups, or selling them also reduces waste. Reusing a product, like reducing waste, is preferable to recycling because the item does not need to be reprocessed before it can be used again.

Ways to Reuse:

  • Using durable coffee mugs.
  • Using cloth napkins or towels.
  • Refilling bottles.
  • Donating old magazines or surplus equipment.
  • Reusing boxes.
  • Turning empty jars into containers for leftover food.
  • Purchasing refillable pens and pencils.
  • Participating in a paint collection and reuse program.
  • Donating older cell phones for senior citizens’ use.

Buying Recycled

In order to make recycling economically feasible, we must "buy recycled" products and packaging. When we buy recycled products we create an economic incentive for recyclable materials to be collected, used in the manufacturing process, and marketed as new products. There are more than 4,500 recycled-content products available, and this number continues to grow. In fact, many of the products people regularly purchase contain recycled-content. The following list presents just a sampling.

  • Aluminum Cans
  • Cereal Boxes
  • Egg Cartons
  • Motor Oil
  • Trash Bags
  • Comic Books
  • Steel Nails
  • Steel Products
  • Newspapers
  • Paper Towels
  • Carpeting
  • Car Bumpers
  • Glass Containers
  • Laundry Detergent Bottles

(Source: Environmental Protection Agency)

Additionally, there are an increasing amount of recycled products (e.g., plastic lumber, steel frame houses) reaching market that offer an alternative to conventional products.

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How do I get rid of grass clippings and yard trimmings?

Another form of recycling is composting. Composting is the controlled biological decomposition of organic matter, such as food and yard wastes, into humus, a soil-like material. Composting is nature's way of recycling organic wastes into new soil used in vegetable and flower gardens, landscaping, and many other applications. To learn more about composting, click here.

Grasscycling, the practice of leaving grass on a lawn after mowing, is an effective way to deal with grass clippings. This practice allows grass to compost without any additional effort. A mulching lawnmower that cuts grass into tiny bits, improves the process even more.

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How do I get rid of things like detergents, paint products and fertilizers/pesticides?

The Maryland Department of the Environment refers to these types of products as Household Hazardous Waste (HHW), and they need to be disposed of carefully. The best rule of thumb for all such products is "Buy only what you need and use all of what you buy." The following is a partial list of products considered to be HHW and a brief description of disposal:

  • Automotive and Engine Parts: Antifreeze, batteries (lead acid), brake fluid, gasoline/diesel fuel, used motor oil, used oil filters, solvents and degreasers, transmission fluids, waxes and polishes, and windshield washer fluid. Many of these products are recyclable. Check with your local coordinator for information.
  • Household Cleaning Products: Abrasive cleaners, air fresheners and deodorizers, all-purpose cleaners, bleach, carpet and rug cleaners, laundry and dishwashing detergents, disinfectants, drain openers, fabric softeners, floor cleaners, glass cleaners, hard water mineral removers, metal cleaners, mildew removers, oven cleaners, pre-wash soil and stain removers, soap scum removers, toilet bowl cleaners, bathroom cleaners, and upholstery cleaners. Be sure to read the instructions on these products regarding safe storage and disposal.
  • Household Maintenance Products: Adhesives, aerosol spray, household batteries, fluorescent bulbs, muriatic acid, paint and paint supplies, wood preservatives, polishes/waxes, pool chemicals, thermostats. Paint, batteries and fluorescent bulbs, in particular, are often recyclable. For other products, read the instructions on the labeling regarding safe storage and disposal.
  • Hobby Products: Glues and adhesives, hobby paints and photographic chemicals. Read the instructions on the labeling regarding safe storage and disposal.
  • Pesticides/Lawn and Garden Products: Banned pesticides, fertilizers, herbicides, insecticides and repellents, moth control products, and pet care products. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations dictate that all pesticide products put proper disposal instructions on the label.
  • Personal Care Products: Aerosols, cosmetics, heavy-duty hand cleaners, medicine and health care waste, nail polish/polish removers, permanent wave solutions, soaps. As with many other products, be sure to follow the rule of thumb, "Buy only what you need and use all of what you buy." For safe disposal, read the label.

The best source of information for specific household products is your County Coordinator. Many counties hold special collection days for HHW.

For most of these products, disposal instructions are listed on the packaging. So be sure to read all the warnings and instructions for disposal as supplied by the manufacturer. In addition, most products list a toll-free number for questions. If you have any concerns about safe disposal, call the toll-free number.