Frequently Asked Questions

Your questions, answered

Division of Solid Waste Services frequently asked questions. Responses are periodically reviewed and may change without notice. For the most up-to-date information, send us an email at


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Percentage of waste recycled in Montgomery County

In Calendar Year 2017, 56% of waste generated in the County was recycled; the County’s Waste Diversion Rate was 61%.

The Waste Diversion Rate is Montgomery County’s Recycling Rate plus its Waste Reduction Efforts, measured by a Source Reduction Credit, earned from the State of Maryland for Montgomery County’s waste reduction initiatives.

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County-provided curbside collection

Does the County provide recycling and trash collection services for everyone in the County?

Montgomery County does not provide any trash or recycling collection on behalf of the multi-family (e.g. condos, apartments) or commercial sectors. Instead, multi-family properties, and commercial business/organizations must arrange for their own trash/recycling collection services, typically through a private contract with a licensed collector. For reference, there are approximately 700 multi-family properties and approximately 33,000 commercial sector entities in the County.

The County provides trash services for single family residences in the southern part of the County for approximately 92,000 residences. For single family residences outside that area, the property owners are responsible for contracting for their own trash services. In some instances, the Home Owners Associations (HOAs) do this contracting on behalf of the property owners.

Montgomery County provides weekly curbside recycling collection service to all approximately 218,000 single-family residences in the unincorporated areas of the County.

Does the County require recyclables to be sorted or can I throw paper and plastic in the same bin?

Please DO NOT put paper and plastic recyclables in the same bin. Montgomery County has a dual-stream recycling program, so we require recyclables to be easily separated into two separate streams. This means that mixed paper (all clean, dry paper that will tear, such as writing paper, printer paper, stationary, newspaper, sale flyers, cardboard shipping boxes, cereal/pasta boxes, paper cups, coated paper milk/juice cartons, books, magazines, unwanted mail, and more) and commingled materials (glass, metal, and plastic bottles, cans, jars, containers, and foil products) must be kept separate during collection, transportation and processing of these recyclable materials.

Mixed paper and cardboard should be placed into your blue wheeled recycling cart. All bottles, cans, jars, and containers should be placed into your blue recycling bin. If you do not have/want to use a recycling cart for your mixed paper and cardboard, you can put them into a paper bag, a cardboard box, or bundle it with string, and place it next to your recycling bin. You may also use a second, separate recycling bin with a mixed paper label for your paper and cardboard instead. All coated paper containers including milk and juice cartons, ice cream containers, and coffee paper cups are recyclable; please empty these containers and put them in your mixed paper recycling cart.

Montgomery County asks residents to put mixed paper and commingled materials (bottles, cans, jars and containers) in separate recycling containers because the recyclable materials are then less contaminated and are kept cleaner, and cleaner, contaminant-free recyclable materials are recycled into higher quality products.

Please DO NOT use plastic bags to contain any recyclables.

To request delivery of a recycling bin for bottles, cans jars and containers, or a recycling cart for paper and cardboard call 311 (240-777-0311); recycling bins may also be requested online. Recycling carts may only be requested via 311.

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Recycling contamination

What materials are not recyclable in the Montgomery County curbside recycling program?

The items we most often see inappropriately placed in blue recycling bins or mixed paper recycling carts, and that we want to remind residents NOT to put in their recycling bin/cart are

  • Plastic Bags, Plastic Film or Shrink Wrap
  • Hazardous or Toxic Product Containers (such as containers for herbicides, pesticides, insecticides and automotive fluids)
  • Electronics (including computers, keyboards, TV’s, etc.)
  • Styrofoam® or Polystyrene (packing peanuts or foam blocks used to protect items in shipments, or other items marked #6 PS)
  • Home Health Care/Medical Supplies (including needles/syringes, plastic intravenous (IV) fluid bags, plastic respirator and medical equipment tubing, CPAP masks, gloves, etc.)

For materials that are not acceptable through the County’s curbside recycling program, there may be other opportunities to recycle those materials. Learn how to properly recycle or properly dispose of these materials. You can also call MC311 by dialing 311 or (240) 777-0311; TTY Maryland Relay 711.

Also, please remember to empty and rinse all bottles, jars, cans and containers before placing these items in the recycling bin. Caps and lids should be left off the bottles, jars and containers, before placing them in the blue bin.

How do I gain a better understanding of what can and cannot be recycled?

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How much glass is received for recycling at the Recycling Center? What does the County do with it?

On average, between 43% and 56% of the commingled material received from the County’s curbside collection program is comprised of glass. The glass is sorted into three grades (clear, gramber – green and amber, and mixed) at the recycling center and sent to material processors for recycling.

Why are other municipalities not accepting or considering not accepting glass?

Other municipalities in the region have expressed that there are problems marketing their glass for manufacture into new items. Recycling facilities with single-stream processing systems that receive the glass collected from these municipalities for processing at their facilities have validated that they are unable to sell or market the material. The glass from these municipalities has been found to be too contaminated to be recycled into any new products.

Does the County make money on recycling of materials?

The County receives revenue for some of the materials processed at the Recycling Center. All our commodities are bid monthly with bid awards being granted to the highest responsible bidder. The County receives 100% of the revenue generated from the materials processed, and that revenue is used to offset some of the operating costs of the processing facility.

How has China’s recycling ban affected recycling revenue in the County?

China’s recycling ban has only affected our mixed paper revenue. The closure of foreign market locations has created oversupply and lower purchase prices for the domestic markets for mixed paper. Unlike other markets impacted by the China recycling ban, most of the County’s processed material has historically been sold to domestic markets.

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Generated materials

What volumes of municipal solid waste is handled at the Transfer Station and the Resource Recovery Facility (RRF)?

In Calendar Year 2017, approximately 575,162 tons of waste were loaded on to rail at the Transfer Station and delivered to the RRF for processing. The permitted capacity of the RRF is 657,000 tons per year.

What volumes of recycled material were handled at the Recycling Center, Resource Recovery Facility, Transfer Station, and Composting Facility?

Materials Received by County Operated Facilities - Calendar Year 2017

  • Approximately 78,492 tons of dual stream material were processed for recycling at the Recycling Center.
  • Approximately 84,489 tons of yard debris were received at the Transfer Station comprised of 29,009 tons of woody material that was grinded to produce mulch and 55,480 tons of leaves and grass that was sent by rail to the compost facility Dickerson to produce Leafgro.
  • Approximately 1,596 tons of electronics that were dropped off at the recycling drop-off area at the Transfer Station were recycled.
  • Approximately 165 tons of hazardous material was received at the Transfer Station and disposed of by a contractor at a hazardous waste disposal facility.

These numbers are for materials brought directly to the County operated facilities. As reported by the Department of Environmental Protection to Maryland Department of Environment, when you consider all materials recycled by commercial haulers and processors as well as the County, the numbers are different.

All Materials Recycled in the County - Calendar Year 2017

  • Approximately 157,318 tons of yard debris, leaves and grass were recycled
  • Approximately 14,064 tons of other debris material such as food waste, manure, and other wood materials
  • Approximately 41,902 tons of glass (all types), cans and plastics commingled
  • Approximately 128,928 tons of mixed paper, magazines, and cardboard

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Yard trim

What happens to Christmas Trees dropped off at the Transfer Station? Does the County accept Christmas lights for recycling?

The Christmas trees dropped off at the Transfer Station, as well as the Christmas trees collected at the curb from single-family households, are recycled by being shredded into mulch. This mulch material is taken off-site to private facilities where some of the mulch is bagged. The resulting mulch is distributed to nurseries either in bulk or bags.

The County accepts Christmas lights for recycling only if they are brought to the Transfer Station. Residents should drop them off at the electronics recycling center at the Transfer Station. Additionally, there are several other locations (retail establishments) in the County that accept Christmas lights for recycling.

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Waste-to-energy (Resource Recovery Facility)

What happens to the material brought to the RRF?

At the RRF, waste is burned at extremely high temperatures and the heat is used to generate energy in the form of electricity or steam. Metal is recovered from the resulting ash and recycled.

Where does whatever material is left over from the waste-to-energy process go?

The combustion process at the RRF reduces the volume of the incoming trash by 90%. The remaining 10% is the resulting ash. The ash is shipped via rail to Petersburg, Virginia and taken by truck to Old Dominion Landfill in Henrico County, Virginia where it is screened into two products; alternative daily cover and road base. These products are  used at modern lined landfill facilities owned by Republic Services, Inc. During the ash screening and processing at Old Dominion Landfill additional ferrous and non-ferrous metals are recovered. Therefore, all ash (residue and metals) emanating from the RRF is recycled.

Does the RRF emit harmful materials into the atmosphere?

The burning of materials at the RRF emits exhaust through the stacks. 99.99% of what comes out of the stack is normal components of air, including water vapor, nitrogen, oxygen, and CO2. The remaining constituents are well below the limits set by the State and Federal governments. Specifically, the County has had multiple third-party reviews of the health impacts of the RRF on the surrounding community. These reviews all indicate that the operation of the facility is protective of human health.

Who regulates operations at the RRF?

The Maryland Department of the Environment issued the Permits and regulates the operation of the RRF. The RRF must also comply with a combination of federal, state, and local regulations.

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