Recycling Center & Dump – Accidentally Awesome Field Trip

The Dump: Better than an episode of Bob the Builder

After moving out of our old house and into a new one this weekend, a trip to The Dump (aka The Montgomery County Solid Waste Transfer Station) was in order. Neither the kids nor I had ever been, and boy, were we in for a treat. What I thought was going to be a dull domestic duty turned out to be an accidentally awesome family outing.

Although we’re pros at scheduling bulk trash collections several times a year, some items like wood fencing and oil-based paint must be disposed of at The Dump. We headed over there this morning with a minivan full of junk from both residences. Upon arriving I pulled into the non-recyclable dumping area. I backed into a parking space next to a big dumping drop off, opened up the back hatch and began chucking stuff over the ledge. Kids 12 and under must remain in the car, but Charlie and Eve had a blast cheering me on from their car seats as I flung rotten wood pieces left and right.

Not pictured: Me getting my home sale & moving aggression out by throwing stuff over the ledge like a maniac

Next up we headed over to the Household Hazardous Waste Receiving Area. The kids were excitedly pointing out all of the different collection areas and corresponding piles of goods. There were towers of tires, a TV and computer electronics disposal area, scrap metal mounds and more. I pulled into the receiving area for paint, showed the good men my ID proving Montgomery County residence and then amused them by hauling the cans of paint as fast as I could as the kids chanted “Go Mama Go!”

On the way out we pulled over to admire the fancy excavator work in the scrap metal area. It made me wish I had a toddler in the car, for we had front row seats to truck nirvana. The kids were fascinated by the old wagons, bicycles and other objects they recognized. We rolled down the windows and cheered, since we’d already dorked out completely. A stern looking man in a hard hat approached and I revved up the car, prepared to be shooed out of the place. It turned out he just wanted to suggest that if we were having such a good time, we should also take a free, self-guided tour of the recycling facility.

We were wholly unprepared for the coolness that awaited. The Montgomery County Division of Solid Waste Recycling Center completely amazed my children.

First we enjoyed the informative displays in the lobby of the visitor center.

Please don’t put non-recyclables in the blue bins

Then we headed up to view the action at the center from the mezzanine. After donning ear plugs like rock stars we entered the mother of all recycling centers. This joint is waaay bigger than the small town aluminum can crushing place I visited with my Brownie troop in the ’80s. Conveyor belts and sorters shook and climbed below us and above us, spanning an area the size of several football fields. We spent a solid half hour transfixed as we saw cardboard, paper, plastic, aluminum and glass sorted and transported for recycling. The thousands of plastic milk jugs especially wowed the kids.


Got milk?

Through the entire dump and recycling visit we discussed the importance of recycling, what items can be reused, what materials can be dangerous if they seep into the ground and water. The kids learned a ton and we had a blast. What I thought would be a dreary errand turned into one of the best, most blog-worthy outings of the summer.

On the way home the kids insisted on wearing their souvenir ear plugs, so I was free to blast the stereo to non-Mom decibel levels.


Not bad for a Monday.

Here are some local recycling centers open for families to visit:

Montgomery County Recycling Center
16105 Frederick Rd, Derwood, MD 20855
Open for self-guided tours 7:30am-5pm Monday-Thursday
Group tour information

Prince George’s County Materials Recovery Facility
1000 Ritchie Road, Capitol Heights, MD 20743
Scheduled tours Monday-Friday 8am-3pm. To set up a tour for your family or group, call 301-499-1707.

Prince George’s County Yard Waste Composting Facility
6601 S.E. Crain Highway, Upper Marlboro, MD 20772
Scheduled Tours Monday-Friday 8am-3pm
Call (301) 627-6388 to schedule tours in advance.

Arlington County Quincy Park Recycling Center
Quincy Park (corner of Quincy St. and Washington Blvd).
Open to county residents during park hours (sunrise to sunset)
The park features a recycling interpretive center that exhibits the reuse and recycling of organic and inert materials collected throughout Arlington County.

Fairfax County I-66 Transfer Station Complex
4618 West Ox Rd., Fairfax, VA
To schedule a tour for all ages, call David Menefee 703-631-1179

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