As of Jan. 1, Prince George’s County residents are no longer allowed to use plastic bags to collect and set out their yard waste.
From now on, leaves, grass and tiny branches have to be collected in reusable pens or paper bags, according to a statement by the Prince George’s County Department of Environmental Resources. The new regulations require that yard waste be placed loose in “paper bags or reusable containers with sturdy handles and tight-fitting lids that are marked,” the statement said. The containers must be marked “YARD WASTE.”
“As we shred our leaves, branches and Christmas trees, plastic bags clog the machinery, make a huge mess and contaminate our compost product. Then, we have additional costs disposing of them,” said DER Director Adam Ortiz, in a statement. “By using alternatives to plastic bags, residents will reduce needless pollution and costs and help our County go greener.”
All other collection requirements will stay the same.
“This change is in direct response to legislation passed by the Prince George's County Council for the purpose of amending the County Recycling Program to meet updated recycling goals,” the county website said.
Some other local jurisdictions continue to allow residents to use plastic bags, though most indicate on their websites that paper is preferred. In D.C., residents are encouraged to use reusable plastic containers. The city’s website does not mention paper or plastic bags.
In Northern Virginia, Alexandria provides free paper leaf bags to residents and three times a year, leaves are vacuumed free of charge. Fairfax County residents are allowed to use clear plastic bags.
“A reusable container or brown paper bag is best,” the Fairfax.gov website said. “They will not add contaminants to the leaves and grass when composted. Clear plastic bags cause equipment problems at the yard waste processing facility and are difficult to remove. Never use dark plastic bags. Yard waste in dark bags will likely be treated as trash and not recycled.”
Montgomery County prohibits plastic bags, like Prince George’s.
In Baltimore City, the Bureau of Solid Waste asks residents to “put yard waste in plastic bags (preferably clear or labeled bags), paper bags, or bundle it.”
In Baltimore County, residents are also allowed to use plastic bags. “Place grass and leaves in paper (preferred) or plastic lawn and leaf bags,” the Baltimore County website said. The bags are limited to 30 pounds and five bags can be picked up during one collection.
The Prince George’s County website said paper bags are available for about $2 for a pack of 5 at home improvement, retain and grocery stories. Reusable containers can be purchased for $10 to $20 and may be used for many years.
Residents are also asked to compost their leaves or chip them into small pieces in a mulching mower.
A short grace period will allow residents to adapt to the new bag requirement.
For more information, visit www.princegeorgescountymd.gov or contact CountyClick 3-1-1.
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