Household Hazardous Waste (HHW)
HHW includes items like batteries, paints, cleaning chemicals, medicine, and electronic wastes. It is illegal to put these items into the trash.
The items below can be dropped off at a number of locations throughout the county. For options on how to properly dispose of these items check out our handy Reduce, Reuse and Recycle Guide or visit www.RecycleStuff.org.
- Motor oil
- Oil filters
- Car batteries
- Latex paint – The California Paint Stewardship PaintCare program accepts latex and oil-based paint for recycling from residents and businesses at no cost.
- Fluorescent lamps (including compact fluorescents)
- Household batteries – These are collected at the curb by all garbage companies presently serving San Mateo County. Place batteries in a small sealed bag and put the bag on top of your garbage container (except if you live in Pacifica, El Granada, Woodside, and Portola Valley; please place the bag on top of your recycle cart).
If you have additional items along with these to get rid of, visit the County of San Mateo’s Household Hazardous Waste website to make an appointment.
Some curbside garbage and recycling haulers will accept certain HHW and universal waste on your regular recycling days, such as batteries, and used motor oil. Reduce waste by recycling accepted items in the blue bin if you have curbside collection. Check our hauler map for more information about which curbside services for recycling hazardous wastes such as batteries and motor oil are available in your area.
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).
The County requires that any device powered by electricity (including batteries) that contains circuitry (e.g. TVs, electronic games, toys, lamps, curling irons and toasters) identified by the State of California as hazardous waste or universal waste, is responsibly recycled. Improperly processed electronics can pollute the air, soil and groundwater. It can contaminate the solid waste stream and expose solid waste workers to harmful material and working conditions.
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. RecycleStuff.org shows where to recycle (or donate) electronics.
Electronics Recycling & Reuse Drop-off Events
Office of Sustainability is offering multiple free electronics recycling and reuse drop-off events throughout the County. Click here for upcoming events.
County’s Collection and Recycling Ordinance
County ordinances require that all collectors of recyclable electronics in the unincorporated areas of San Mateo County process their electronics with a certified electronics recycler.
Below is a list of County-approved electronics certification programs recognized by this ordinance:
- e-Stewards®: a standard that incorporates all the requirements of ISO 14001, enhanced to address health and safety, data security, reuse and refurbishment, recycling chain accountability, export restrictions and more.
- Responsible Recycling (R2): a standard that addresses environmental protection, health and safety, data security, reuse and refurbishment, recycling chain accountability, export restrictions and more.
Electronics Recycling Collection Events in Unincorporated Areas
County ordinances require that at least 10 days before any electronics recycling collection event, the collector must notify the County by providing the following information:
- Contact information including name, address, telephone number, and website.
- The date and location of the electronics recycling collection event.
- The certified electronics recycler(s) that all collected electronics will be delivered to.
Click here to download the Notification Form. Please fill out the form and submit it by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to: Waste Reduction Program, Office of Sustainability, 455 County Center, 4th Floor, Redwood City, CA 94063.
Additionally, any public notices or advertisements for the collection event must include the information listed above (contact information, date & location of event, name of certified electronics recycler). This information must be prominently posted at all electronics collection events.
For a list of collectors or certified processors to recycle (or donate) electronics, please visit our database. Use search categories of Electronics and Computer Equipment or you can call the Office of Sustainability Hotline at 1-888-442-2666. Click here to see the full text of the ordinance.
Electronics Reuse and Recycling Program Development Toolkit
The County of San Mateo’s Office of Sustainability (OOS) created this toolkit as a resource to capture and document efforts completed to develop the County’s existing electronics reuse and recycling program. This toolkit is intended to be shared with other local governments that may also be interested in undertaking similar initiatives to address their electronics waste stream. The toolkit includes various resources (listed and summarized below) that were developed and utilized by the OOS as well as other nearby local governments to successfully design and implement their electronics programs.