Household Hazardous Waste, Universal Waste and Medical Waste disposal options for Single Family and Multi Family Residents

Hazardous and Universal Waste, including Electronic Waste, are rapidly growing problems that account for significant amounts of toxic waste in landfills. Items such as electronics, fluorescent bulbs and tubes, paints, pesticides, cleaning products, old medications and other chemicals are illegal to put in the garbage or pour down a drain or gutter because they will contaminate the soil, drinking water and air.

Hazardous waste can be one or more of the following: toxic, flammable, corrosive, and reactive. (We encourage you to consider non-toxic alternatives for some of the products you use.)

Again, it is illegal to throw these items in the garbage or pour down the sink or gutter. To learn how to legally, safely and properly dispose of these items, visit the San Mateo County Health Department or call (650) 363-4718. You can also visit

Latex and Oil-based Paints Recycle

In San Mateo County, there are stores that will take both latex and oil-based paints from residential sources at no cost, under the California Paint Product Stewardship Program, operated by PaintCare:

  • Kelly Moore, 201 Old County Road, Belmont
  • Sherwin-Williams, 1525 Rollins Road, Burlingame
  • Kelly Moore, 1391 Woodside Road, Ste 100, Redwood City
  • Kelly Moore, 1075 Commercial Street, San Carlos
  • Dunn-Edwards, 3580 S. El Camino Real, San Mateo
  • Kelly Moore, 616 South B Street, San Mateo
  • Sherwin-Williams, 2240 El Camino Real, San Mateo

For further information on this program, please go to

Motor Oil & Filters

Used Motor Oil JugJust one quart of motor oil that is disposed of improperly can contaminate up to 2 million gallons of fresh water! We are pleased to provide a curbside collection of used motor oil and filters at no cost. Once requested, we'll provide you with up to five one-gallon plastic jugs for your used motor oil and up to five zippered plastic bags for your used oil filters. You can also use your own clear zippered plastic bags for used oil filters and clear plastic containers for used motor oil, such as a one-gallon milk jug, which has been properly sealed to prevent leaks.

Simply leave the filled jugs and bags beside your blue Recycle cart when you put it out for service and we'll pick it up for you.

Curbside Collection for Household Hazardous Waste

Residents living in condos, townhomes and apartments in Belmont, East Palo Alto, Foster City, Hillsborough, Menlo Park, San Carlos, City of San Mateo and the
West Bay Sanitary District now have a Door to Door Hazardous Household Waste program offered at no additional charge. Download a brochure below or visit RethinkWaste for more information.

Pointing Man

Printable Materials

RethinkWaste's brochure on Door-To-Door Collection!

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to view this file.

Common Examples of Hazardous Waste

Did You Know?

The average home uses 40 pounds of chemicals each year and stores more than 60 hazardous products!

Source: RecycleWorks
  • Car and truck products, such as motor oil and filters, transmission fluids, lubricants and antifreeze
  • Cleaning supplies, solvents, flammable solids and liquids, nail polish remover and detergents
  • Drain openers
  • Fertilizers
  • Fire extinguishers
  • Furniture and metal polishes
  • Latex and oil based paint and paint-related materials, such as stains, thinners, varnishes, roofing tar, adhesives, joint compounds, and other petroleum-based products
  • Lawn care products, such as pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and fertilizers
  • Lighter fluid
  • Photo-chemical liquids, acids, bases, neutral oxidizers and swimming pool chemicals
  • Propane tanks and aerosol cans (aerosol cans can be recycled if empty)
  • Any other materials or products containing volatile chemicals that can catch fire, react or explode, or that are corrosive or toxic

Tips on Storing Hazardous Products

  • Keep hazardous products on high shelves or in locked cabinets out of reach from children and pets at all times.
  • Never store hazardous products in food containers.
  • Keep hazardous products in separate containers - never combine them to save space.
  • NEVER mix chemicals. Mixing even small amounts of chemicals can have dangerous results.
  • Do not refill empty containers unless the label states it is acceptable to do so.
  • Never remove product labels and always leave products in their original containers.
  • Avoid storing hazardous products near sources of heat or flames
  • Purchase only what you will need and share extras with a friend of neighbor.
  • Make sure containers are clearly labeled, undamaged and sealed tightly.
  • Be aware of leaky containers, poor ventilation and the smell of fumes or chemicals.
  • Know where flammable materials are in your home and know how to extinguish them.


Poison Control

Poison Control Look for precautionary statements on product labels such as Caution, Warning, Danger, and Poison to assist you in determining if an item is hazardous waste.

Caution means slightly toxic. If ingested, an ounce to a pint may be fatal to 150 pound adult.
Warning means moderately toxic. It may take a teaspoon to an ounce to be fatal.
Danger means highly toxic. A taste to a teaspoon could be fatal if ingested.
Poison means the most toxic and is highly dangerous!

Source: San Mateo County


Department of Toxic Substances Control (to report hazardous waste violations only)
(800) 698-6942

Poison Control Center
(800) 876-4766

California Poison Action Line (800)222-1222

ASPCA (Animal Poison Control Hotline)
(888) 426-4435

Peninsula Humane Society
(650) 340-8200

Universal Waste (including Electronic Waste)

Universal waste, also known as U-waste, is a type of hazardous waste that is generated by both residents and businesses.

As of February 2006, the State of California prohibits placing electronic waste, fluorescent tubes, consumer batteries and mercury thermostats into trash. These items can harm human health and the environment if improperly disposed of. Although these products may not be dangerous to use, most of them contain poisonous 'heavy metals' such as lead, mercury and cadmium that can pollute groundwater near landfills.

Electronic Waste (E-Waste)

Almost anything considered 'electronic' is banned from landfills. Electronic waste, also known as E-Waste, is one of the fastest growing segments of our nation's waste stream. In fact, it accounts for 70 percent of the overall toxic waste that is currently found in landfills.
Source: Clean Air Council

E-Waste contains a variety of toxic components like lead, cadmium and mercury, arsenic and flame retardants, and when dumped in a landfill, these materials can potentially contaminate the soil and ground water, thus impacting surrounding areas. Electronics are made from valuable resources such as precious metals, copper, and engineered plastics, all of which require substantial amounts of energy to process and manufacture. Recycling electronics helps recover valuable materials and as a result, reduces greenhouse gas emissions and pollution, saves energy and resources by removing fewer raw materials from the planet.

Examples of Universal Waste

  • Batteries
  • Calculators
  • CD and MP3 players
  • Cell Phones
  • Computers and monitors
  • Copy machines
  • Fax and answering machines
  • Mercury Containing Waste - Fluorescent bulbs and tubes (CFL's), high-intensity lights, sodium vapor lamps, metal halide lamps, and mercury thermometers and switches.
  • Microwaves
  • Radios
  • Stereo equipment
  • Tape players and recorders
  • Telephones
  • Televisions
  • VCRs, DVD players and DVRs

Where To Recycle

To find a location nearest you to recycle these items, please visit RecycleWorks or call (888) 442-2666. You can also donate these items to several non-profit and local organizations; visit our Don't Toss It page for more information.

GreenCitizen also recycles televisions, computers, printers, computer peripherals and a wide variety of other electronics. Everything is recycled in the United States, so there is no shipping of electronic waste overseas, and they have the e-steward certification! See a full list of what Green Citizen recycles.

Some manufacturers will take back their old equipment and be involved in the reuse and recycling of their equipment.

Dell Computer Exchange

HP Computer Exchange

Gateway Computer Exchange

Apple Computer Exchange

Additional Resources:

California Department of Toxic Substances Control



All batteries contain heavy metals such as mercury, lead, cadmium and nickel, which can contaminate the environment when they are improperly disposed of. This includes all battery sizes: AAA, AA, C, D, button cell, 9 Volt, and all others, both rechargeable and single use.

We offer curbside pick up for Single Family Residents (SFD) and a collected pick up for Multi-Family Dwellings (MFD). Visit our Beyond the Cart page for SFD or MFD to learn more.

Most Whole Foods and Radio Shack's also accept old batteries and cell phones for recycling. We advise you to check with your local store first before you go.


CFLs You've probably heard about CFLs, or compact fluorescent lights, the energy-efficient compact fluorescent lamps that consumers have been encouraged to use instead of typical incandescent lights. In fact, many of you have them in your home or business. They use much less electricity; three quarters less in fact.

The Environmental Protection Agency encourages the use of CFLs to save energy and prevent greenhouse gas emissions that lead to global climate change. However, because of the mercury CFLs contain, they must be disposed of carefully. Manufacturers of fluorescent lighting products are working to reduce the amount of mercury content in CFLs, and no mercury is released when the bulbs are intact or in use, but CFLs release a mercury vapor when broken.

With about 400 million CFLs being sold every year in the United States, it's more important than ever that you don't put them in the Garbage or Recycle carts. However, there are other options.

We encourage you to take them back to any of the locations noted below so they can be safely and properly disposed of. You can also look into RethinkWaste's Door to Door Program.

If a fluorescent bulb breaks in your house, the Environmental Protection Agency advises consumers to open a window, have all people and pets leave the room, (making sure no one walks through the breakage area on their way out), and stay out of the area for at least 15 minutes.

To download a handy chart to help identify the various types of lighting, click here.

You can call San Mateo County's Household Hazardous Waste Program for recycling options at (650) 372-6200. You can also find more information about discarding and disposing of other household hazardous waste at

Display the list of CFL Drop-off locations

Medical Waste

Old Medications

Don't flush old medications! (Or throw them away.)

Never throw away old medications. Medicine can end up in the wrong hands - or will actually get into the soil, creating an environmental hazard. And never flush your old medications or pour them down the sink, whether the medication is a liquid or a solid. Waste water treatment facilities are not properly equipped to remove the medicinal substances from the water. The result? A wide range of pharmaceuticals have been found in our rivers, lakes and drinking water. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is currently examining the potentially highly damaging effects of these substances on fish and wildlife.

San Mateo County HHW does not accept pharmaceutical waste. Instead, take old medications to confidential drop-off containers available at any of the following San Mateo County Police Departments:

Belmont: 1 Twin Pines Lane, Belmont, CA    (650) 595-7400
Burlingame: 1111 Trousdale Drive, Burlingame, CA    (650) 777-4100
Hillsborough: 1600 Floribunda Avenue, Hillsborough, CA    (650) 375-7470
San Carlos: 600 Elm Street, San Carlos, CA    (650) 802-4277
San Mateo: 200 Franklin Parkway, San Mateo, CA    (650) 522-7710
San Mateo County Sheriff's Office: 400 County Center, Third Floor, Redwood City, CA    (650) 599-1536

For more information on proper pharmaceutical drug disposal, call (650) 372-6200, or click here or here.

California law prohibits the disposal of "sharps waste" in trash or recycling containers. All sharps waste must be transported to a collection center in an approved sharps container.

Sharps waste poses a threat to anyone it comes into contact with when disposed of improperly.

Home generated sharps waste includes:
Hypodermic needles, pen needles, syringes, lancets, and other devices that are used to penetrate the skin for medical purposes.

Collection Programs
Place home-generated sharps waste in biohazard containers. Biohazard containers are available for purchase at local pharmacies and some office supply stores. Contact your health care provider, local pharmacies, hospitals or clinics to ask if they offer a collection program.

Find more information on new requirements and sharps drop-off locations here.

Mail-Back Service:
Visit the Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery, (CalRecycle) for more information on sharps waste mail-back services in California.
For more general recycling and waste reduction information, please visit RecycleWorks of San Mateo County.

Questions? Please contact us.

Language Assistance:
We offer a free Language Line with over 170 different languages through our Customer Service Department. Please contact us for more information.

Recology San Mateo County provides recycling, compost and garbage collection services to the 12 Member Agencies in the RethinkWaste service area.