Reduce, Reuse, Recycle


Reducing waste is the best way to limit the impact on our local landfills.

Food Waste & Food Donations

Food donors are protected from liability for their good faith donations under the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act. Edible food includes seconds from a grocery store or farm, leftovers from restaurants or caterers, or other unwanted foods from wholesalers. These foods can be donated to food shelters and other organizations. Second Harvest Food Bank accepts surplus food donations from various organizations.


Gleaning means having volunteers help pick and deliver leftover produce to nonprofit organizations and shelters from farms that are no longer economical to harvest.

Bay Area Recycling Outreach Coalition

San Mateo County participates in the Bay Area Recycling Outreach Coalition, whose latest outreach campaign focuses on reducing food waste.

ReThink Disposable for Food Establishments

The Office of Sustainability (OOS) worked with Clean Water Fund’s ReThink Disposable Program staff to complete a successful pilot project that helped San Mateo County food establishments switch from single-use disposable food ware to reusable food ware.

ReThink Disposable Program staff reached out to over 30 food establishments in San Mateo County to eliminate single-use food packaging waste. Seven establishments signed onto the program to switch from disposable to reusable food ware through rebates provided by the OOS.  Two businesses – Manila Eatery and San Carlos Youth Center (SCYC) – are highlighted in case studies, and SCYC provided a testimonial (see below). SCYC began working with ReThink Disposable in May 2020, all virtually due to shelter-in-place orders.

Snapshot of Manila Eatery and SCYC’s combined results:

  • Eliminating 73,405 single-use food ware items each year
  • Preventing the generation of 2,454 pounds of waste each year
  • Gaining $5,412 in annual net-savings each year


The ReThink Disposable program will continue to be available to food establishments in San Mateo County as part of the OOS’ new food ware program launching at the end of this year.


Reusing or repurposing items helps conserve natural resources and reduces the amount of waste that is disposed of in the landfill. The following are some ways that items can be reused.

Check out our handy Reduce, Reuse and Recycle Guide as a reference for where you can donate your unwanted items!

Posting your unwanted items on one of the sites or listservs below is a great way to give them away for reuse.
Craigslist, NextDoor, Freecycle, PennySaver

Surplus Property

The Office of Sustainability’s Surplus Property Program aims to find ways to beneficially reuse surplus equipment from County departments such as furniture, office supplies, and much more. Retired property is posted online for auction on GovDeals, where the public can purchase used and like new items at a discounted rate.

County of San Mateo Departments, cities, schools, and non-profit organizations may request retired property FREE OF CHARGE any time before the auction end by following these steps:

  1. Visit to see the listings of all available surplus property. Register for a bidder account if you have not done so already.
  2. Email with a link to the requested item. State the department or organization you are from, and your GovDeals username.
  3. We will pull the item from auction, and provide pickup instructions. Your organization is responsible for the removal, packing, loading, and transportation of the item.
  4. Need an item but don’t see it on GovDeals? Email us the requested items and quantity, and we will contact you if it comes into circulation for immediate transfer.


Purchasing products made from recycled products increases the overall demand in the world for recycling and strengthens recycling commodities markets, increasing the incentive for these materials to be recycled correctly.

OOS recycling products graphic


Curbside collection – Reduce waste by recycling accepted items in the blue bin if you have curbside collection. Check our hauler map for more information about which services are available in your area.
Recycle cans and bottles – Learn how to cash back for aluminum cans, glass or plastic bottles here.
Reduce, Reuse and Recycle Guide – Check out our handy Reduce, Reuse and Recycle Guide as a reference for locations that accept hard to recycle items!
Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) – include items like batteries, paints, cleaning chemicals, medicine, and electronic wastes. These items cannot go in any curbside bin. For options on how to properly dispose of these items, please visit the County of San Mateo’s Household Hazardous Waste website.


Collection – Reduce your business’ waste by recycling. Check our hauler map for more information about which services are available in your area.
Start a Recycling Program – It’s easy to start a recycling program at work! Over 75% items that are thrown away at work could be recycled. See below for some of the tools that the Office of Sustainability can provide. If you’d like to have assistance getting a program set up, please contact your local hauler or give us a call at 1-888-442-2666 or send us an email at

The 4Rs Grants Program

The Office of Sustainability is offering funding assistance to government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and educational institutions (e.g., schools, school/college districts, state university systems, etc.) through the 4Rs (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot – Compost) Grants Program. The 4Rs Grants Program’s objective is to divert waste from being sent to the landfill by financially supporting eligible entities create and implement projects in San Mateo County that focus on the 4Rs – reduce, reuse, recycle, and rot. The program offers two tiers of funding: (1) Mini Grant ($2,000 to $5,000) and (2) Mega Grant (up to $25,000). Please click here for additional information on the 4Rs Grants Program.

Next Gen Foodware Ordinances Workshop: A Policy Lab for Local Government

On December 5th, 2018, about 75 local government staff from all over the Bay Area came together at the Foster City Community Center and participated in a day-long workshop called the Next Gen Foodware Ordinances: A Policy Lab for Local Government, which focused on policy options for reducing single-use foodware items.

Learn more about the Next Gen Foodware Ordinances Workshop here

Disposable Food Service Ware Ordinance

The County of San Mateo Board of Supervisors adopted the Disposable Food Service Ware Ordinance (Ordinance) on Tuesday, February 25, 2020! This Ordinance aims to regulate and reduce the amount of disposable food service ware that is used by food facilities in unincorporated areas of San Mateo County. Please click here for additional information on the Ordinance.

Countywide Integrated Waste Management Plan

The California Integrated Waste Management Act directs counties to prepare a Countywide Integrated Waste Management Plan (CIWMP). This plan consists of the Source Reduction and Recycling Elements (SRREs), the Household Hazardous Waste Elements (HHWEs), and the Nondisposal Facility Elements (NDFEs) of each jurisdiction, the Countywide Siting Element, and the Countywide Integrated Waste Management Summary Plan. The CIWMP addresses waste management conditions and provides an overview of the actions that will be taken to achieve the diversion requirements of Public Resources Code section 41780 and to maintain 15 years of disposal capacity.

California statute requires the County of San Mateo to review its CIWMP every five years and then report on its adequacy to the California Integrated Waste Management Board (CIWMB). The last review of the CIWMP was completed in 2019. For additional information on the 2019 review process, please click here.