Counties Striving to Meet, Exceed Recycling Goals

In the Maryland Recycling Act, the General Assembly set recycling goals for Maryland’s counties based on their population size. For counties with populations greater than 150,000, the goal is reduction through recycling of at least 35% of the county’s solid waste stream by weight. For counties with a population less than 150,000, the goal is reduction through recycling of at least 20% of the county’s solid waste stream. The Maryland Department of Environment collects data to determine whether counties are meeting those goals.


Anticipating a focus on “zero waste” as a major issue in the coming legislative session, Conduit Street is sharing this detail snapshot of counties current waste management practices, based on data collected by the Maryland Department of the Environment.

The Department’s most recent data, displayed in the chart below, shows that almost all of Maryland’s jurisdictions far surpass the Maryland Recycling Act goals.  The average recycling rate of counties with populations over 150,000 is 47%, 12% above the required rate.  The average recycling rate for counties with populations less than 150,000 is 37%, 17% above the goal. Note that in the chart the “Mid-Shore” category includes data Caroline, Kent, Queen Anne’s and Talbot Counties, which are managed by the Mid-Shore Regional Recycling Program. MD Recycling Act Rates

The Department of Environment further notes that many counties go beyond “core” recyclables such as mixed paper (i.e., all paper types, envelopes,books, cardboard, magazines, newspaper, and telephone books), containers (i.e., glass, metal, and plastic), white goods (i.e., appliances), and organics (i.e., yard trimmings and Christmas tree recycling).
Counties that go beyond collecting “core” recyclables are engaged in source reduction programs – such as encouraging composting, and specialized recycling programs to pick-up products that are especially hazardous for the environment.  Fluorescent lights, expired medication, paint, mercury and other hazardous household waste are collected.
The number of counties offering these programs are detailed in the chart below:

For more information, see the most recent Maryland Solid Waste Management and Diversion Report from the Maryland Department of the Environment, the County Recycling Fact Sheets, and our previous posts in this Conduit Street series:

Zero Waste in Maryland – Signals from 2013

Zero Waste: Recent Related Legislative Initiatives