Stories from the NFCCA Newsletter, the “Northwood News”

Northwood News ♦ February 2021

County Explicitly Bans #6 Plastic Food Containers

By Frances Spiegel

Six years ago, Montgomery County enacted a ban on expanded polystyrene (Styrofoam) food containers.  That same legislation required all food service businesses in Montgomery County to use compostable or recyclable disposable food service ware by 1 January 2017.

However, many local restaurants continue to use take-out containers made out of #6 plastic, which is not recyclable in Montgomery County.  To clarify the issue, in October 2020, the County enacted additional legislation to explicitly ban all polystyrene disposable food containers, including #6 plastic.  That explicit ban goes into effect on 1 January 2022.  Ahead of the effective date, the County will be undertaking an education campaign, including informing businesses of affordable recyclable or compostable alternatives.

In this sushi container, the bottom part of the container is recyclable but the clear top part is not.  Always check!

The expansion of the polystyrene ban is important because #6 plastic is not recyclable in Montgomery County.  The County’s curbside recycling program accepts plastic containers labeled with resin numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 7.  Items made out of #6 plastic (including red Solo cups, many drink lids, certain food containers, and packaging from toys and electronics) must be placed in the trash and not in the blue recycling bins.

It is easy to confuse #6 plastic with recyclable materials, particularly disposable food containers, as they often appear identical to recyclable items.  Therefore, it is important to look for the number of the plastic, not just the triangular recycling symbol.  Often times, different pieces of food containers are made from different types of plastic, one of which may not be recyclable.  For example, the bottom of a food container may be #1 plastic and the lid may be #6.

These three items look like they’re recyclable, but all are #6 plastic and not accepted by Montgomery County.
Recycling “contamination” (i.e., nonrecyclables comingled with recyclables) has become an increasing problem in Montgomery County and negatively affects the cost and efficiency of the County’s recycling program.  In an effort to reduce contamination, this year the County will be sending field inspectors into neighborhoods to check the contents of the blue recycling bins before collection.  Where they find nonrecyclable items in a bin, the bin’s contents will not be collected that week.  The inspectors will provide an educational flyer explaining which items are and are not recyclable.  Once the non-recyclable material has been removed, the County will pick up the bin’s contents the following week.

Compost Update

We heard recently from County Executive Marc Elrich that Montgomery County is working toward offering residential food scrap recycling (composting).  However, the County is beginning its food scrap recycling efforts with the commercial sector.  Thus, for now, residents interested in curbside compost collection must rely on private companies that transport compost to a facility in Prince George’s County.

Several Northwood-Four Corners residents currently use Compost Crew (the County provides a list of private compost collectors online here).  Our Compost Crew neighborhood rate is based on the number of neighborhood residents using the program.  To get our neighborhood rate, use discount code NORTHWOOD COMPOSTS (all caps, no spaces) when you sign up at  The more people who sign up, the cheaper our neighborhood rate will be.   ■

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