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List of State Officials - Martin O'Malley, Governor; Anthony Brown, Lt. Governor; Robert Summers, MDE Secretary

Volume V, Number 4 

November 2012

Maryland building on recycling success
by David Mrgich, Land Management Administration 

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Maryland counties have exceeded the state’s goals for recycling and reducing waste for six straight years. But with gains flattening out, new laws are on the books to keep even more trash out of our landfills.

One new law encourages more recycling at apartment and condominium complexes. Another raises the bar for counties by setting a new goal for waste diversion -- recycling combined with efforts to reduce the amount of waste in the first place.

The environmental benefits of increased recycling do not end with saving landfill space. Recycling saves energy and natural resources and reduces the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change.

Maryland continues to explore ways to increase recycling, including an increased emphasis on the composting of food waste.

Apartments and condos

House Bill 1 will enable residents of certain apartment buildings and condominiums to have easy access to recycling. The law requires, by October 1, 2014, property owners or managers of apartment buildings and councils of unit owners of condominiums to collect and recycle recyclable materials from residents of apartment buildings and condominiums with 10 or more units. In addition, the bill requires a county’s recycling plan to address the collection and recycling of recyclable materials from residents by property owners or managers of apartments and condominiums. A person that violates the law is subject to a civil penalty not exceeding $50 for each day on which the violation occurs. Any penalties collected under the law shall be paid to the county, municipality or other local government that brought the enforcement action.

By requiring owners or managers of apartment buildings and councils of unit owners of condominiums to collect and recycle recyclable materials from their residents, convenient recycling is now available to a portion of Maryland’s population that previously, with few exceptions, was only able to recycle by transporting recyclables to drop-off stations in their counties.

Setting goals

The Maryland Recycling Act (MRA), passed in 1988, established a mandated recycling rate of 15 percent for counties with a population less than 150,000 and 20 percent for counties with a population greater than 150,000.  It also established that State government must recycle 20 percent of its waste. These mandated rates remained unchanged until 2012, when House Bill 929 passed.

House Bill 929 requires counties with a population less than 150,000 to recycle 20 percent of their waste while counties with a population greater than 150,000 must recycle 35 percent of their waste. Counties must fully implement these changes by the end of 2015. Additionally, State government must now recycle 30 percent of its waste.

The bill also establishes a statewide “waste diversion” goal of 60 percent by the year 2020. This is up from the current waste diversion goal of 40 percent. Waste diversion is determined by adding the recycling rate to a source reduction credit. The source reduction credit is determined by the number of waste-reducing measures a county implements, such as material exchange programs and promoting waste reduction in businesses.

Recycling 101

The new laws are designed to boost recycling in Maryland. Although Maryland has annually exceeded that 40 percent goal for waste diversion, the figure was virtually identical for 2006 and 2010, the most recent year for which data was available.

The State does not manage local recycling operations and the MRA, with a few exceptions, does not give MDE the authority to require specific recycling practices. The Maryland legislature decided that this was best determined at the local level and gave each County the choice to determine the best way to serve its residents and reach the required recycling percentage. Questions about local recycling and source reduction programs should be directed to your local Solid Waste Division. Contact information is available on the Waste Diversion page on MDE’s website.

Recycling and climate change

Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are produced by the incineration of waste materials, decomposing waste and the processes used to make products from virgin materials as opposed to using recycled materials. Waste diversion targets all areas of GHG generation by reducing the amount of material that ends up at incinerators and landfills and increasing the amount of recycled material available for the manufacturing process.

The Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Act of 2009 (GGRA) requires Maryland to develop a plan to reduce these emissions by 25 percent by 2020. Recycling and source reduction of waste are among the more than 60 programs in the 2011 GGRA 2009 Draft Plan.


Per Ton Greenhouse Gas (MTCO2E*) Emissions



MTCO2E – Landfilled

MTCO2E – Source Reduced

MTCO2E – Recycled

MTCO2E – Combusted

Aluminum Cans

0 **

(8.30) **

(13.65) **

0.01 **

PET Plastic Bottles

0 **

(2.11) **

(1.56) **

1.24 **


0 **

(3.92) **

(1.83) **

0.39 **


0 **

(0.57) **

(0.32) **

0.01 **

*    MTCO2E = Metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent.  It is a measure of carbon dioxide emissions and is equal to a unit of mass equal to 1,000 kg (2,205 lbs.).

**  Values vs. the landfilling of the material.  Assigns MTCO2E – Landfilled a value of 0.  A negative value (i.e., a value in parentheses) indicates an emission reduction, while a positive value indicates an emission increase compared to the landfilling of a material.

Using recycled material in the manufacturing process also saves energy and reduces the use of natural resources. Recycling also saves landfill space by reducing the amount of material disposed at landfills. 


Per Ton Energy Use (BTU^)



BTU (million) – Landfilled

BTU (million) – Source Reduced

BTU (million) –Recycled

BTU (million) – Combusted

Aluminum Cans

0 **

(126.75) **

(206.95) **

0.11 **

PET Plastic Bottles

0 **

(71.28) **

(53.36) **

(10.07) **


0 **

(36.85) **

(16.89) **

(8.16) **


0 **

(7.46) **

(2.66) **

0.00 **

^    BTU = 1 BTU is a unit of power that is equal to the amount of energy needed to heat 1 pound of water 1° F.  It is also used to describe the heat value (energy content) of fuels.

**  Values vs. the landfilling of the material.  Assigns BTU (million) – Landfilled a value of 0.  A negative value (i.e., a value in parentheses) indicates a reduction in energy consumption, while a positive value indicates an increase in energy consumption compared to the landfilling of a material.

New frontiers

MDE, in consultation with the Maryland Department of Agriculture and Maryland Environmental Service, is holding meetings to study composting of organic matter. Food and yard waste account for more than a quarter of the waste generated in Maryland, and all compostable materials (including but not limited to food and yard waste) account for a third of the state's waste stream, the most recent data shows.

The study includes: laws and regulations governing composting by individuals and businesses; recommendations for promoting composting in the State, including any necessary programmatic, legislative, or regulatory changes; and a report to the General Assembly by January 1, 2013, to include a summary of current laws and regulations governing composting, study findings and recommendations.