Hazardous Waste — Disposal and Reduction

Hazardous waste is handled by the Environmental Health Department, which is different from the Office of Sustainability.
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 drop off their Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) 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 sealed bag and put the bag on top of your recycling container (except if you live in Millbrae, Brisbane and South San Francisco, please place the bag into the recycling cart under the blue lid on top of the bottles and cans).

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 PaintCare.

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 email or 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.
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 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) 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) 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 your business does 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.

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).