Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

UPDATE (1/7/19) – The OOS is now accepting applications for the next cycle of the 4R’s (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot – Compost) Grants Program! For additional information, including the grants guidelines and applications, please click here!


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.


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.

Reduce, Reuse and Recycle Guide – 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, Fogster, Freecycle, PennySaver

Surplus Property

The Office of Sustainability’s Surplus Property program aims to find ways to beneficially reuse extra equipment from County departments, ranging from furniture to office supplies, computer equipment, medical equipment, and much more.  Items are first circulated internally to determine whether other departments can make use of them, then offered to local nonprofits and agency partners, and then are finally released for sale to the public.

Public Sales are conducted both via online auction, on, and at in-person warehouse sales which generally occur every 2nd and 4th Thursday of the month.


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.
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

Household Hazardous Waste

Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) – includes 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.

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 curbside services for recycling hazardous wastes such as batteries and motor oil are available in your area.

Reduce, Reuse and Recycle Guide – Check out our handy Reduce, Reuse and Recycle Guide as a reference for locations that accept certain hazardous wastes.

The 4R’s (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot-Compost) 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 4R’s (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot – Compost) Grants Program. The 4R’s Grants Program was developed to help eligible organizations create and implement reuse, waste reduction, recycling, and composting programs in San Mateo County. The program offers two tiers of funding: (1) Mini Grant ($1,000 to $5,000) and (2) Mega Grant (up to $25,000).

Available Grants

Students writing in their camp writing books at Peninsula Young Writers’ creative summer writing enrichment camp focused on the 4R’s.

Mini Grant: The Mini Grant (for funding requests from $1,000 to $5,000) is available to support and fund small projects that will educate and increase awareness around the 4R’s – including reducing waste, increasing recycling, increasing or implementing composting, and increasing reuse. The Mini Grant is designed to serve a variety of potential applicants who need access to small amounts of funding for a limited time and for a specific purpose.

Mega Grant (Formerly known as the 4R’s Grant): The Mega Grant (for funding requests up to $25,000) is available for qualified entities to help initiate or expand innovative programs that promote reuse, waste reduction, recycling, and composting or education about these environmental issues throughout San Mateo County (county-wide focus).

Examples of Grant Projects

  • Classroom workshops, trainings, or activities by nonprofits
    Master Food Preserver workshop participants in action, making homemade condiments.
  • School garden start-up funding, which includes funding for garden structures such as sheds and garden beds constructed with salvaged lumber
  • Fixit Clinics or other reuse/repair projects
  • Food waste reduction and reuse programs
  • Materials associated with expanding/implementing a campus/facility-wide recycling, reuse or waste reduction program
  • Environmental educational field trips to waste or recycling facilities, museums, etc.
  • Books, materials and equipment, which will be utilized by teachers and students over the years

Fiscal Year (FY) 2017-2018 Grantees

The OOS has awarded a total of 24 grantees during FY 2017-2018’s 4R’s Grants Program, six 4R’s Grant (now known as the Mega Grant) grantees and 18 Mini Grant grantees, in the total amount of $200,239. You can find a full list of this year’s grantees, their project summaries and approved grant funding here.

Next Grants Cycle Information (FY 2018-2019)

The OOS is excited to announce the call for applications for the next grant cycle! Information on the grants guidelines and applications is provided below. The deadline for all application submissions is Monday, February 4th, 2019.


If you have questions regarding the 4R’s Grants Program, please email or call 1-888-442-2666.

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. One of the goals of the workshop was to bring Bay Area local governments together in one space to allow for dialogue – the sharing of ideas, best practices, and experiences – all around a topic that is gaining increasing momentum and starting to become a high priority item for many local governments. A second goal of the workshop was educating the right folks – local governments staff, who specialize in waste reduction, stormwater, health and sustainability – with helpful information that they can take back to their communities to tailor and use to inform their decision making process around this topic.

Key topic areas discussed at the workshop include:

  • Standards and requirements for single-use foodware
  • The benefits and challenges of reusable foodware for onsite dining and to-go foodware, including proper food handling practices and potential impact on big fast food chains
  • Customer charges for single-use foodware
  • Reusable foodware systems that exist in the Bay Area and other parts of the world to support culture change

At the end of the day, local government staff collaborated in groups broken up by county and shared information regarding current efforts, input provided by stakeholders, specific challenges unique to their communities, and potential solutions that may work in their respective communities.

Primary Sponsors: County of San Mateo’s Office of Sustainability and UPSTREAM

Co-Sponsors: San Francisco Department of the Environment, StopWaste, Clean Water Action, and Ecology Center

Workshop Planning Committee:

  • Miriam Gordon, UPSTREAM
  • Eun-Soo Lim, County of San Mateo
  • Jack Macy, City/County of San Francisco
  • Peter Schultze-Allen, EOA Inc.
  • Samantha Sommer, Clean Water Action
  • Justin Lehrer, StopWaste
  • Martin Bourque, Ecology Center

Workshop Resources:

Workshop Presentations and Videos: 

To access the full collection of all the workshop presentation videos, please click here.

  1. Workshop Introductions, Goals, and Setting the Stage: The Local Government Perspective (Video)
    Miriam Gordon, Policy Director at UPSTREAM, provides an introduction to the Next Gen Foodware Ordinance Workshop, including the acknowledgment of the primary sponsors and co-sponsors and the workshop planning committee, and how the workshop got started.
    Eun-Soo Lim, Sustainability Coordinator at the County of San Mateo’s Office of Sustainability, discusses the main goals of the workshop. Eun-Soo also presents on why addressing single-use foodware is important from a local government perspective, garnering input from the participants.
  2. The Environmental Perspective: Why We Need to Move UPSTREAM in the Lifestyle of Food Packaging (Presentation/Video)
    Miriam Gordon, Policy Director at UPSTREAM, offers insight into the global movement of shifting away from single-use products, how these products pollute our oceans, and what we can do about it. She argues that no single-use product, be it recyclable or compostable, is a silver bullet. Instead, we need a mass cultural shift in thinking about food packaging.
  3. A Framework for Next Gen Policy Solutions (Presentation/Video)
    Peter Schultz-Allen, Senior Scientist at EOA Inc., presents a “Foodware 2.0 Framework.” He goes over the major types of food businesses currently in operation and the key questions policy-makers should consider when dealing with food businesses.
  4. City of Oakland: Reducing Disposables through “On-Request” Provisions (Video)
    Wanda Redic, Senior Recycling Specialist for the City of Oakland, discusses the City of Oakland’s new ordinance, which only allows straws to be distributed upon request. Wanda talks about the importance of enacting small, feasible policies in order to open up dialogue and work towards greater change.
  5. City/County of San Francisco: Banning Fluorinated Chemicals and Plastic Straws in Foodware (Presentation/Video)
    Jack Macy, Senior Commercial Zero Waste Coordinator for the City/County of San Francisco, gives a presentation on the San Francisco Single Use Foodware Plastics, Toxics, and Litter Reduction Ordinance. The bill includes a ban on beverage accessories (unless requested), a requisite for compostable food packaging to have BPI certification, and a mandatory 10% minimum of reusable cups for city venues or permitted events held on City property. He also examines the feasibility of recycling various types of plastics and gives an overview about chemical toxins (fluorinated chemicals) in foodware.
  6. City of Alameda: Going Recyclable or Compostable? (Presentation/Video)
    Kerry Parker, Zero Waste Program Specialist for the City of Alameda, gives a presentation on the City of Alameda’s current sustainability programs, including a foodware ordinance that was adopted recently. Alameda was an early adopter of polices related to food packaging. The City banned styrofoam foodware in 2008, made measurable steps to reduce disposable food service ware in 2017, and has partnered with ReThink Disposable to encourage reusable foodware practices.
  7. ReThink Disposable (Presentation/Video)
    Samantha Sommer, Waste Program Prevention Manager at Clean Water Action / Clean Water Fund, gives an overview of ReThink Disposable – a program of Clean Water Action. The ReTthink Disposable team has worked with food and dining establishments around the Bay Area to promote reusable foodware. Samantha recounts a variety of success stories, noting that all clients have ended up saving money by taking part in the program. ReThink Disposable has extensive data showing that by switching to reusables, these restaurants have greatly reduced their environmental impact.
  8. Retrofits, and Water and Energy Consumption – Can Big Fast Food Chains Adapt? (Presentation/Video)
    Richard Young, Director of Education at the Food Service Technology Center, gives a detailed presentation on the potential financial costs of adapting to reusable/sustainable practices, specifically for big chain restaurants. Through field research and direct customer support, Richard has overseen a wide variety of appliance overhauls for major food restaurant businesses. He lists cost estimates for different retrofits and as well as the incentives for incorporating such changes.
  9. External Dishwashing Services (Video)
    Farhad Salehian talks about his startup, Dishjoy, a mobile dishwashing service for businesses and restaurants. Dishjoy offers a financially feasible way to implement a large-scale reusable dining experience at a variety of establishments. Farhad goes over the history of the project, its current operations, and its overall environmental impact.
  10. Addressing Infrastructure Challenges and Permits for Future Facilities – The Berkeley Approach (Video)
    Martin Bourque, Executive Director at the Ecology Center in Berkeley, gives an overview of the City of Berkeley’s pending sustainable foodware and toxics ordinance. The ordinance is focused on a comprehensive approach to single-use foodware reduction, setting the stage for a broad overhaul of current disposable foodware practices.
  11. California Health Code Provisions for BYO Foodware (Video)
    Justin Malan, Principal and Owner of Ecoconsult California, discusses the role of the Retail Food and Safety Group in conversations about environmental sustainability. He stresses that safe food and dining practices can go hand-in-hand with sustainability, despite areas where the two modes can come into conflict.
  12. Consumers and Businesses’ Reactions via Survey (Presentation/Video)
    Chris Slafter presents “Business / Consumer Reactions to Customer Charges.” As the lead survey administrator for ReThink Disposable, Chris has personally overseen the Bay Area restaurant community’s response to possible single-use foodware packaging fees. Chris goes step-by-step to show how ReThink Disposable has conducted its surveys and how the results may affect policymakers’ decisions.
  13. Engaging and Avoiding Adverse Impacts on Homeless and Economically Disadvantaged Communities (Video)
    Chris Richardson, Chief Program Officer for Downtown Streets Team, looks at how reusable foodware policies (and sustainability policies, in general) affect the Bay Area’s unhoused individuals. How can policies overlook this population? What steps can we take to ensure that they are not negatively impacted by restrictions on single-use foodware?
  14. Experience with Go-Box in Palo Alto (Presentation/Video)
    Chuck Muir, Manager of Environmental Control Programs at City of Palo Alto, talks about the Go-Box Program at the City of Palo Alto. Although Palo Alto has a zero waste goal and a robust recycling/composting program, it was looking to make a greater change. Chuck weighs the pros and cons of the Go-Box Program from a cost, environmental, and feasibility perspective.
  15. Mandatory Reuse and Available Systems to Support it (Presentation/Video)
    Miriam Gordon, Policy Director at UPSTREAM, presents “Mandatory Reuse and Systems to Support It.” Her presentation focuses on Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) laws, various deposit systems from around the world, subscription services like Go-Box, as well as automated collection services. She raises the possibility of starting a workgroup related to reuse systems.
  16. Launching a Reusable Foodware Pilot in Berkeley (Video)
    Martin Bourque, Executive Director at the Ecology Center in Berkeley, gives an overview of the Ecology Center’s new pilot program to reduce single-use food packaging in South Berkeley downtown areas. He notes the financial toll of waste and litter in Berkeley’s downtown areas and looks at the pros and cons of several deposit systems intended to alleviate the issue


Reduce, Reuse and Recycle Guide 2018 Final
Reduce, Reuse and Recycle Guide 2018 Final
1.9 MiB