Source Reduction

Source reduction, also known as waste prevention or pollution prevention, is the elimination of waste before it is created. It involves the design, manufacture, purchase or use of materials and products to reduce the amo​unt or toxicity of what is thrown away. 

Source Reduction means stopping waste before it happens.

Pollution Prevention (P2) - An innovative approach to environmental management through the elimination of pollution prior to recycling, treatment, or disposal.

Waste Minimization  - The reduction of the generation and toxicity of hazardous waste materials such as paint cans, pesticides, and motor oil before disposal or storage.  

Maryland's Sourc​​e Reduction Credit System

To help the State meet its annual Waste Diversion goal of 40%, Maryland created a source reduction credit system for use by its 23 counties and Baltimore City.  The credit system, that went into effect in 2000, acts as an incentive to counties to boost their waste diversion rate by up to 5%. Each year, counties complete a SR Credit Checklist of their source reduction activities. Activities include yard waste reduction (composting), public education programs, and research.  

Maryland was the third state to o​​​​​​ffer a source reduction credit, after Minnesota and Oregon. Since the credit system went into effect in the year 2000, the average source reduction credit claimed by Maryland counties has increased from 1.8% in 2000 to 3.6% in 2021 (most recent d​ata). In 2021​, ​eleven c​ounties have taken advantage of the credit​. MDE will continue to work with counties to get t​hem m​ore involved and to help them increase their source reduction activities.​

Besides helping to reach the State's 46.1% waste diversion goal, increasing source reduction activities could save the counties a significant amount of money. Consider this scenario: If Maryland's counties as a whole decreased the total amount of waste generated by just 1%, they could save nearly $4 million in disposal costs (based on average Maryland tipping fee of $57/ton). 

Source Reduction for​ Residents, Consumers, & Businesses

In 2021, Marylander's generated over 3.2 million tons of Maryland Recycling Act (MRA) waste (MRA waste is waste that, if recycled, counts towards a county’s recycling rate). The recycling rate plus the source reduction (SR) credit make up the waste diversion rate. Through the efforts of citizens, businesses, and government agencies, Maryland achieved a statewide waste diversion rate of 46.1% in 2021 (the last year data is available). The 46.1% waste diversion rate was composed of a 42.5% MRA recycling rate and a 3.6​​​​% SR credit.​

Source reduction is the highest goal in the solid waste management hierarchy - Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. By itself, recycling does not address the issue of wasteful product use. When recycling is coupled with source reduction, however, wasteful purchase and use of products is minimized.     Whenever possible, reduce or reuse first, then recycle. 

Reduce or reuse first, then recycle.

The practice of source reduction benefits the environment through reduced energy consumption and pollution, conservation of natural resources, and extension of valuable landfill space. It can also have economic benefits by reducing costs associated with transportation, disposal or recycling of waste.  Plus, source reduction can save you money every day.

Everyone can participate in source reduction. Here are some creative ways you can practice source reduction every day:

At Home  - Easy and fun ways to reduce waste in your home, yard or while shopping
At the Office - Tips for reducing waste at work while saving money
At the Retail Store - Cost-effective ideas for making your store more environmentally friendly

If you're looking for source reduction ideas, here are some Alternative Uses of Common Household Products. By incorporating even a few of these ideas into your day, not only will you reduce waste, you will also save money while helping to protect the environment.

Other Useful Links

Contact Information

For more information about source reduction, please contact MDE's Resource Management Program.​​​​

Human Trafficking GET HELP

National Human Trafficking Hotline - 24/7 Confidential

1-888-373-7888 233733 More Information on human trafficking in Maryland

Customer Service Promise

The State of Maryland pledges to provide constituents, businesses, customers, and stakeholders with friendly and courteous, timely and responsive, accurate and consistent, accessible and convenient, and truthful and transparent services.

Take Our Survey

Help Stop Fraud in State Government

The Maryland General Assembly’s Office of Legislative Audits operates a toll-free fraud hotline to receive allegations of fraud and/or abuse of State government resources. Information reported to the hotline in the past has helped to eliminate certain fraudulent activities and protect State resources.

More Information