Tour of the Montgomery County Recycling Center

On Friday March 17, 2006, twenty members of Friends of Sligo Creek visited the Montgomery County Recycling Center and Transfer Station. The tour was both educational and inspiring. We learned the nuts and bolts of the recycling process and had an opportunity to view it from the tipping floor through the various sorting stations. The County is striving for a 50 percent recycling rate by 2010. We are well on our way: 40 percent of the trash produced in the County is recycled.

To ensure the continued success of the recycling program, I thought it would be useful to relate a few helpful tips about the process:

  • The County only recycles plastic bottles. It does not recycle plastic jars or other plastic containers. In other words, "check for the neck." If there is no neck (e.g., yogurt containers, take-out cartons, styrofoam) - throw it out.
  • The County recycles virtually every kind of paper. This includes wrapping paper, cartons, cardboard boxes, magazines, books, and mail. There is no need to remove the plastic window in envelopes or staples on your correspondence. Paper must be clean to recycle, however; do not put pizza boxes in the large blue bins. Also, the County does not recycle waxy drink containers.
  • The County does not recycle plastic bags. This includes the bags holding your newspaper. Take your clean, used bags (including newspaper bags) to the local grocery store. Most of the local chains provide a small rebate if you use your own bag. The Silver Spring and Takoma Park Coop will donate money to FoSC for every bag you reuse.
  • Only glass bottles and jars are recyclable. The lids are not recyclable. Remove these before depositing your bottles. The County does not recycle lightbulbs, ceramic dishes or drinking glasses.
  • Aluminum foil is recyclable.
  • It is important to rinse your recyclables before depositing them. Dirty cans and bottles can contaminate the recycling process.
    Takoma Park has its own recycling program. If you live in Takoma Park, check locally to confirm that the same rules apply.

    Although recycling is important, it is even more important to "reduce" and "reuse" your waste. Recycling uses less energy than creating virgin products - but manufacturing recycled goods still uses water, energy and often raw materials. Each of us must do our part to reduce the amount of waste we produce, reuse the goods we rely on as much as possible, and then close the loop by recycling those goods that can no longer be reused. The FoSC tour of the Recycling Center provided us with important information to further that goal.

    Text by Jennifer Kefer         Photos by Marty Ittner

    Employees of the Montgomery County Recycling Center sort cans and other recyclables.

    Members of Friends of Sligo Creek learn about the fate of their trash before visiting the Montgomery County Transfer Station, where non-recyclable trash is taken.

    Members of Friends of Sligo Creek share a birds-eye-view of the tipping floor, where non-recyclable trash is dumped before incineration or transfer to the landfill.