Hazardous Waste — Disposal and Reduction

Hazardous waste is handled by the Environmental Health Department, which is different from the Public Works Department, which RecycleWorks is in.
Read on for safe disposal options, but remember that the best way to keep the environment healthy is to reduce your use of toxic materials in the first place.

Examples of Hazardous Waste: Paint, Fertilizers, Cleaning Chemicals, Etc.

Options for residential hazardous waste disposal in San Mateo County

Residents of San Mateo County can either drop off their Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) at approved facilities, or, if you live in certain areas, it can be picked up at your doorstep.

At Your Door Special HHW Curbside Collection

At Your Door Special HHW Curbside Collection services exist for residents (single-family, condos, townhomes and apartments) in the incorporated and unincorporated San Mateo County communities listed below. Residents do not need to pay a separate fee for using the Door-to-Door HHW program; the costs are already included in your garbage bills. Residents may schedule as many appointments as needed. The program is contracted by RethinkWaste and the At Your Door company will conveniently collect HHW from your home and other eligible items that cannot be disposed of in your garbage or recycled in your curbside recycling program. Please refer to the website or brochure listed below.

Unincorporated areas include: Burlingame Hills, San Mateo Highlands and Baywood Park (Crystal Springs area), Harbor Industrial, Devonshire Canyon, Palomar Park, Oak Knoll, Kensington Square, Emerald Lake Hills, Sequoia Tract and Trailer Ranchero and North Fair Oaks (area of CSA-8).

Incorporated areas include: City of Belmont, Foster City, East Palo Alto, Hillsborough, Menlo Park, San Carlos, City of San Mateo, and West Bay Sanitary District.

Steps for Door-to-Door HHW Pickup

Call At Your Door Special Collection at 800-HHW-PKUP (800-449-7587) or email atyourdoor@wm.com and explain the type and quantity of waste you wish to have picked up from your home if you live in the areas identified above. A collection appointment will be scheduled.

For more information about this program on what they can accept or do not accept download the flyer or visit the SBWMA website

For all other area or HHW questions please visit the San Mateo County Department of Health or call (650) 372-6200 to find out about safe, convenient and free disposal options in San Mateo County.

The County Department of Health HHW program is available to all San Mateo County residents, including those that are participating in the Door-to-Door HHW Program.

Dropping off HHW Materials

Regardless of location, all San Mateo County residents can drop off HHW materials at approved facilities.

Items that you do not need an appointment to drop off

The items listed below are recyclable and can be disposed of without an appointment if these are the only items you have to get rid of. It is illegal to put these items into the trash. If you have additional items along with these to get rid of, see the section below to make an appointment.

  • Motor oil
  • Oil filters
  • Antifreeze
  • Car batteries
  • Latex paint
  • Fluorescent lamps (including compact fluorescents)
  • Household batteries

These items can be dropped off at a number of locations throughout the county.

Batteries only: These are collected at the curb by all garbage companies presently serving San Mateo County. Place batteries in a small ziplocked bag and put the bag on top of your recycling container.

Paint: The California Paint Stewardship PaintCare program accepts latex and oil-based paint for recycling from residents and businesses at no cost. For more information, please see our Paint page.

Items that you do need an appointment to drop off

You need an appointment at a Hazardous Waste Collection Event to drop off the items listed below. Every week collections are held in a different city in San Mateo County. After making an appointment you will receive a confirmation card in the mail with the time, date and location. Make an appointment.

  • Cleaning supplies
  • Photo chemicals
  • Garden products (fertilizer, herbicide, pesticides)
  • Hobby and pool chemicals
  • Aerosols
  • Fire extinguishers
  • Mercury products:
    thermometers, thermostats, etc.
  • Oil-based paints, thinners and stains
  • Plus items listed in the previous section
Electronics (Note: Electronics are not accepted at Hazardous Waste Events.)

There are several electronics recycling centers in San Mateo County. If the item is under 5 years old, it can often be donated to an electronics refurbishing/reuse program. For practical purposes, in terms of current regulations, it is illegal to throw out practically all electronics. Our database will show where to recycle (or donate) electronics; use search categories of Electronics and Computer Equipment.

Cell Phones and Rechargeable Batteries

In July 1st, 2006 two new waste recycling laws, AB 1125 and AB 2091, went into effect, requiring retailers to take back rechargeable batteries and cell phones for recycling. This legislation creates convenience and incentives for consumers: it's easy to drop off and recycle end-of-life batteries (and cell phones) at locations statewide, and you have the opportunity to do the right thing with your hazardous waste.

AB 2901 (Pavley, 2004) Cell Phone Takeback and Recycling The Cell Phone Recycling Act requires some of California's largest cell phone retailers to embrace the take-back/recycling model and collect used cell phones, at no cost to the consumer, to be reused, recycled or properly disposed.

AB 1125 (Pavley, 2005) Rechargeable Battery Takeback and Recycling The Rechargeable Battery Takeback and Recycling Act was modeled after the same take-back concept of the cell phone bill. AB 1125 requires all retailers that sell rechargeable batteries to accept back used rechargeable batteries at no cost to the consumer.

Hazardous waste disposal options for businesses

Very Small Quantity Generator Program (VSQG)
The county has a small quantity generator program to assist businesses that generate small quantities of universal waste.

A VSQG (per state law) is any business that generates less than 100 kilograms (about 220 pounds or 27 gallons) of hazardous waste per month. The VSQG Program is designed to provide an inexpensive hazardous waste disposal option to eligible businesses, non-profits, and government agencies.

Visit the VSQG webpage for details.

If you do not qualify for the VSQG program:
If your business generates more than 100 kilograms of hazardous waste per month, you will need to find the appropriate commercial hazardous waste management company (information provided by the San Mateo County Environmental Health Department) to handle your material. Companies that provide this service may be found in the yellow pages or by contacting the County's hazardous waste department at 650–363–4718.

Toxics Reduction

Less toxic cleaning alternatives
Sustainable Gardening
Stormwater Pollution Prevention Program

Universal Waste Regulations

Universal wastes are hazardous wastes that are generated by several sectors of society, rather than a single industry. Beginning February 8, 2006 households and small businesses were no longer allowed to put universal wastes in the trash.

Universal waste includes:
  • all household batteries
  • fluorescent and other mercury containing lamps*
  • electronic items with a circuit board (for practical purposes, all electronics)
  • non-empty aerosol cans
  • mercury thermostats

The San Mateo County Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) program collects these wastes from households and small businesses. More information about these wastes and the new regulations is available from The State of California Department of Toxic Substance Control (DTSC).