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Universal Waste

Batteries and compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) are just two items that can no longer be put in your trash. Effective February 9, 2006, it became illegal to dispose of household batteries, cell phones and fluorescent light tubes and bulbs in the trash. Batteries include both rechargeable and single-use batteries of all sizes. These products, known as Universal Waste or U-Waste, contain heavy metals like cadmium, mercury, lead, and other toxic chemicals that can be harmful to people and the environment if put in the trash.

Other items banned from the landfill include electronic devices like computers, TVs, cell phones, and mercury-containing thermometers and thermostats.

Please click on this link for an op-ed article on CFLs by Burlingame City Council Member Terry Nagel published in the SF Chronicle on September 4, 2008.

  • Legal Disposal Options and Drop Off
    Legal Disposal Options and Drop Off

    Shoreway Environmental Center
    333 Shoreway Road, San Carlos, CA
    650-802-8355


    Contact County of San Mateo Environmental Health for additional drop-off options: 650-363-4718.


    For more information about the California Universal Waste Rule, visit any of the following websites:
    State of California, Department of Toxic Substances Control
    CalRecycle
    San Mateo County RecycleWorks
  • List of Universal Waste Items
    The list of items now considered Universal Waste is actually quite large and varied. The common theme is that these products contain hazardous substances such as heavy metals or brominated fire retardants. Universal Waste includes the following:
    • Greeting cards that play music
    • Shoes with lighted soles
    • Certain maze games containing mercury
    • Electronics: video cassette recorders (VCRs), cordless and regular telephones, radios, Pilot light sensors, electric switches, barometers, blood pressure devices, stoves, ovens, water heaters, space heaters, clothes dryers, and furnaces frequently use mercury switches
    • Common batteries: AA, AAA, C cells, D cells, and button batteries, such as those used in hearing aids
    • Landscape Chemicals: pesticides and herbicides
    • Compressed gas cylinders

  • Alternatives to Minimize Universal Waste
    So how do you avoid buying products that end up being Universal Waste? Below is a brief list of some ideas for alternative products that are made with non-toxic materials.
    • Shoes with reflective materials instead of lights
    • Electronic medical devices, such as electronic thermometers, blood pressure devices
    • Rechargeable batteries instead of single use batteries
    • Greeting cards made from recycled paper or reclaimed cards from St. Jude's Ranch for Children
    • E-greeting cards
    • Sustainable landscaping methods: compost, alternative cleaners
    • Visit Our Water - Our World for ideas on how to sustainably manage home and garden pests
    • Bay Friendly Gardening Book ( Water Pollution Prevention Program )
    • Compressed gas cylinder exchange program

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