Two of Carroll County’s municipalities, a private trash hauler and the county’s recycling manager recently reminded residents that plastic bags are no longer being accepted for recycling, a mandate that went into effect across the county last year.
The reason? “Bags get tangled up into the machinery and they have to shut it down,” Recycling Manager Maria Myers told the Times earlier this week. The equipment is made to sort recyclables like aluminum cans, glass and plastic bottles, cardboard and newspapers, and a host of other acceptable recyclable items that can be found on at www.recyclecarroll.org.
Both the towns of Hampstead and Manchester, which use Hughes Trash Removal to haul recycling, posted messages on social media earlier this week saying that residents’ recycling will not be collected if it contains plastic bags.
So what should you do with plastic bags instead? For one, most grocery stores and large national retailers like Walmart and Target, which are the main sources of these bags accept them for recycling. To be clear, it’s not that the bags in question are impossible to recycle, it’s that Carroll County does not have the equipment to handle the recycling of these bags.
Another option is to donate them to the “Bag Ladies” at Carroll Vista in Taneytown. Started by resident Rosemary Orner in 2016, the ladies sort, fold and cut the plastic grocery bags, then knot the strands together to make a roll of plastic string that is then used to weave them into 6-by-4-foot sleeping mats to be distributed to homeless individuals.
The Shepherd’s Staff in Westminster, the Taneytown Police Department and the Taneytown Volunteer Fire Company have received mats to distribute to people in need. “The mats help keep them off the ground … the plastic serves as an insulant,” Brenda Meadows, the executive director of The Shepherd’s Staff recently explained to us.
One sleeping mat requires approximately 700 grocery bags, so there is plenty of need for the bags, which can be dropped off at the Carroll Vista clubhouse at 1 Clubside Drive between 9:30 and 11 a.m. every Wednesday when the Bag Ladies meet. (If you have experience weaving or want to help out in another way, they would likely welcome that too.)
Of course, there are plenty of uses for the plastic bags once you bring them home and put the groceries away too. They make great liners for small, bathroom trash cans or keep a few in your car for any trash you may accumulate there. If you have pets, the bags are useful for cleaning up pet waste when you take them for a walk. A quick Google search will also turn up other ideas.
From the county’s standpoint, if it truly views plastic bags as a problem, the Board of County Commissioners could consider a ban on the bags, like ones that have been implemented in more than 300 jurisdictions across the U.S., including a few in Maryland. A countywide ban on any product seems unlikely any time soon, as recent discussions locally have focused on banning expanded polystyrene foam (more commonly, though incorrectly, referred to as Styrofoam) and haven’t gone anywhere.
The foam, like plastic bags, cannot be recycled in Carroll, yet frequently makes its way into the recycling steam, part of a altruistic phenomenon known as “wishcycling.” Other items that cannot be placed in recycling receptacles include batteries, electronics, food waste, ceramics or dishes, trash or yard waste, motor oil containers, No. 6 clamshell containers and cups, household waste, light bulbs, windows and mirrors.
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Bottom line, residents need to take a closer look at what they’re putting in their big blue bins in each week. And if you’re not sure, visit www.recyclecarroll.org or call 410-386-2510 and ask.