Recycling Advice for Baltimore County


Last month, the Jennifer Branch Conservation Association (JBCA) of the Gunpowder Valley Conservancy (GVC) sponsored Richard Keller from Baltimore County Solid Waste Disposal to speak at Seven Oaks Senior Center to discuss the do’s and don’ts of recycling. We learned a lot!


Baltimore and Harford counties’ single stream recycling gets sorted at the Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) in Cockeysville. From start to finish, the process for a load of recyclables only takes three minutes. Did you know that those “recycle” numbers on products have nothing to do with whether they are recyclable? Those numbers simply indicate the TYPE of plastic used.


The types of materials MRF processes are: paper, steel, aluminum, glass, #1 and #2 plastics, and mixed rigid plastic. We are fortunate some reclaimed plastics are bought locally for reuse and paper goes to an international market. The MRF paper is considered highly desirable for its quality; it’s an industry standard.


If you don’t recycle and want to start, or promote recycling to others, focus on

  • Aluminum cans – a profitable market
  • #1 plastic (e.g. water bottles)
  • #2 plastic (e.g. milk jugs, detergent and shampoo bottles)
  • Wide mouth plastic containers
  • Paper, especially corrugated cardboard.


Newer items on the market, like single-serve convenience food containers and soups in microwavable containers are questionable in the recycling process. It doesn’t mean they aren’t recyclable; it’s just that MRF isn’t equipped to separate them or MRF doesn’t have a market for that plastic.


One item that is not recyclable but commonly found at MRF is plastic bags – they gum up the MRF works and need to be hand cut and removed from machinery, shutting down the entire assembly line until removed. Other items are styrene packing material and styrene containers (e.g. Styrofoam), tissue paper, wrapping paper, and plastic clam shells (e.g. salad bar containers and packaging from batteries.)


Remember, there are other options to consider before sending your trash to the landfill. Check out MOM’s Organic Market stores in White Marsh and Timonium, which offers its own recycling program. Also check out Baltimore County Reuse Directory for items you don’t need anymore but still might have some life left in them.