Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

(2/28/20) – The Disposable Food Service Ware Ordinance was adopted by the County’s Board of Supervisors on February 25, 2020! Learn more here.
(2/3/20) – The call for applications for the next 4Rs Grants Program cycle is now open! Learn more 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.

ReThink Disposable: Assistance & Rebate

Ready to reduce food service ware costs and cut waste at your business or school? The ReThink Disposable team will meet with you on-site to assess your current use of disposable food service ware, discuss reusable alternatives and recommend waste-reducing practices. If appropriate, they will also help you apply for a rebate up to $500 toward the purchase of reusable food service ware products.

Additional information can be found in our English and Spanish flyers.

To apply for a consultation, please email or call 888-442-2666.


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, Fogster, 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.
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).

Available Grants

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

Mini Grant: The Mini Grant (for funding requests from $2,000 to $5,000) is available to support and fund small projects that will educate and increase awareness around the 4Rs – 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: 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

Current Program Year (PY) 2019-2020 Grantees

A total grant amount of $302,038 will be distributed to 11 Mega Grant grantees and 15 Mini Grant grantees between summer 2019 to summer 2020.  A list of the current year’s grantees can be found here. Congratulations to the newest recipients of the 4Rs Grants Program!

Past Years’ Grantees

Next Grant Cycle Information (PY 2020-21)

The call for applications for the next 4Rs Grants cycle for Program Year 2020-21 is now open! The call for grant applications will close on Monday, March 2, 2020 at 6:00 pm.

Below are the grants guidelines and applications, along with other resources:

* The application has been translated into Spanish and Chinese as a language assistance resource for English as a Second Language (ESL) applicants. However, all applicants must submit their applications online in English in the appropriate applications links provided above.


If you have questions regarding the 4Rs Grants Program, please email or call 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.

Learn more about the Next Gen Foodware Ordinances Workshop here

Disposable Food Service Ware Ordinance

The County of San Mateo Board of Supervisors officially adopted the Disposable Food Service Ware 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.

The objectives of the Ordinance are to:

  1. Reduce waste by eliminating disposable food service ware that is not reusable or compostable and through source reduction;
  2. Improve the health and safety of San Mateo County community members; and
  3. Help the County keep our waterways clean and safe.

Key elements of the Ordinance include requiring:

  1. Most disposable food service ware to be non-plastic and compostable;
  2. Larger disposable food service ware to have little/no harmful fluorinated chemicals; and
  3. Regulated distribution of disposable food service ware accessories.



Please email or call 888-442-2666.

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).  To support the process of completing this review, on June 13, 2019, the City/County Association of Governments (C/CAG) Board approved the establishment of a CIWMP Review Ad Hoc Committee to review the CIWMP documents to determine if they are accurate and up to date. The Ad Hoc Committee consists of 14 members with representations from elected officials as well as staff from the following: solid waste companies, County Office of Sustainability, County Environmental Health, environmental organization, city environmental departments, and the public.

Ad Hoc Committee Members

  • Member roster
  • Chair: Ann Schneider
  • Vice Chair: Christine Kohl-Zaugg
  • Staff Support: Eun-Soo Lim, County of San Mateo Office of Sustainability 650-599-1498 /

CIWMP Review Ad Hoc Committee Meeting Information