Report: Reduction in New Plastics Must Take Priority

Maryland recycles at higher rates than some other states but has room to improve in both volume recycled and structure of programs, according to a new report.

The report, published by Environment Maryland and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG), calls on Maryland to redesign systems to prioritize a reduction in plastic use and adapt more comprehensive recycling efforts where reduction is not possible.

According to the report:

Maryland has recycled and composted​ at higher rates than some states in recent years with a combined rate of 44.1% in 2017.​ However, Maryland’s performance is uneven. The state collected 85% of yard waste in 2016, but only 15% of food waste and 13.7% of plastic waste. Eliminating nonrecyclable plastics, offering more curbside food waste collection, and increasing collection rates in underperforming regions would allow the state to continue making progress.

It’s important to remember that recycling is only our third best option. While recycling reduces our need to produce from virgin materials, it is also a manufacturing process that requires the use of water, energy, and other natural resources.

The report notes the negative externalities associated with trash incinerators in Baltimore and landfills across the State including high costs and health consequences. The report asserts that an emphasis on reducing new plastics decreases the need for incinerators and landfills that lead to emissions as well as contaminants in groundwater.