Baltimore, MD

Baltimore Bins - Free Recycling Containers Coming to the City

Susan Kelley
Recycling cansPhoto by Sigmund on Unsplash

Residents of Baltimore City will soon be recipients of new full-size recycling cans as part of a new initiative to encourage greater and more frequent recycling efforts city-wide. The free, outdoor bins will resemble the large waste bins that city residents currently use for trash pickup, complete with wheels for easy transport to curbside to allow for safer, more efficient collection.

The estimated 200,000 bins are part of a $9 million program that will be funded by the city, the Baltimore Civic Fund, and the nonprofit group the Recycling Partnership, and will replace the city's current inventory of yellow recycling bins which lack wheels. The bins will be distributed this summer to residents citywide.

According to Baltimore mayor Brandon M. Scott, the initiative will "drastically increase" recycling efforts in the city and reduce waste. The bins are slated to prompt an increase of more than 20,000 tons of recycling in the Maryland city each year.

In an announcement Thursday, Mayor Scott said, “I am pleased to work and collaborate with The Recycling Partnership and the Baltimore Civic Fund to bring equitable opportunities to recycle to Baltimore.” Of his plans to move the city toward a zero-waste initiative, the mayor noted, "the only way we can do that is if we increase the number of households that recycle.”

The city currently uses rugged plastic wheeled outdoor trash bins with fitted lids in an effort to better control the rat population and to help minimize injuries to sanitation workers. The bins make use of a metal bar that assists with unloading the bins automatically into refuse trucks. The recycling bins will be slightly smaller than the trash bins but of a similar design. The trash bins were introduced during Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's 2015 administration and have been in use since.

A $3 million grant from The Recycling Partnership is a major factor in the rollout of the new bins, and is the largest in the organization's history. Rob Taylor, the organization’s director of grants and community development, said in a statement that The Recycling Partnership’s efforts nationwide are focused on improving people’s ability to recycle and expanding access to recycling to make it more equitable. Taylor commented that, “We are helping Baltimore City capture recyclables that can be transformed into new products, creating a more robust circular economy, a less wasteful planet, and stronger, healthier neighborhoods.”

In part because of the new recycling bin distribution, the Department of Public works will close the current community recycling centers, which the city opened during a pause in the curbside recycling collection efforts. Initially, the curbside collection of recycling was suspended in August of 2020 due to staffing shortages caused by COVID-19 illnesses. Curbside collection resumed in the city in January even with remaining limited staffing capacity.

A city announcement stated that the new bins are aimed at "reducing the amount of manual labor needed, helping to prevent injury to collection staff while providing residents with increased storage capacity for their recyclables at the same time.”

Baltimore city hopes to increase recycling rates overall and to become a greener city. The EPA notes that overall, plastics recycling rates remain under 10 percent. The new recycling initiative in Baltimore city goes hand-in-hand with the plastic bag ban initiated by the city council and signed by the mayor. There has been a pause on the ban due to COVID concerns with store staff handling reusable bags, but the ban will be reintroduced as COVID concerns wane.

This recycling initiative is just one of several efforts to move Baltimore toward Mayor Brandon Scott's commitment toward zero waste.

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Susan is a runner, avid traveler, mom of three grown children, and a newly-transplanted Baltimorean who follows tech trends, especially at the intersection of health and the public good. Sound intriguing? It is. Often, technology is at odds with the "earthy-crunchy," but sometimes, it is a real boost. Susan is an avowed supporter of women's and human rights, so that situates well here.

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