What is Household Hazardous Waste & Why is it Important?
Household hazardous waste (HHW) are items that don’t belong in any of the three carts because they contain harmful chemicals that can contaminate our soil, drinking water, and air when disposed of improperly!
These items, such as electronics, fluorescent bulbs and tubes, paints, pesticides, and cleaning products are illegal to put into the garbage or down a drain or gutter. There are a variety of options you can choose from to dispose of your household hazardous waste safely and properly.
Options to Dispose of Household Hazardous Waste
- Community Network
Check with your family, friends, and neighbors to see if any of them are interested in your leftover household products. This way it does not get wasted and you are also sharing with your community!
- Shoreway Public Recycling Center
Bring select HHW items to the Shoreway Public Recycling Center (PRC) for proper disposal. The PRC accepts free drop-off from residents only.
- San Mateo County’s Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) Program
Dispose of all your toxic waste (including your batteries) with the County. Click here for a list of all accepted HHW items. San Mateo County’s HHW Program is a free recycling and disposal service for all County residents by appointment only. To participate, you must schedule an appointment at smchealth.org/hhw or call (650) 372-6200. For more information about the program, visit their FAQ page.
RecycleStuff.org is a helpful resource when you’re looking for locations near you to be able to drop off hard to recycle items. This website searches locations all over San Mateo County and Santa Clara County. Simply search for a specific type of item you’d like to recycle, enter your zip code, and a list of locations will pop-up. Note: Some locations may charge a fee for taking the items so please check before visiting the location.
Alternatives & Tips to Household Hazardous Waste
Avoid Chemical-Heavy Cleaners
Want to avoid using cleaners with a lot of chemicals? Try a natural, all-purpose cleaner recipe.
- Spray bottle
- 2 cups water
- 2 cups distilled vinegar
- Optional: Juice of 1 large lemon or 20-30 drops of tea tree oil for fragrance and antibacterial properties
- Mix vinegar, water, and fragrance option into a spray bottle and shake to mix. If your spray bottle holds less than 4 cups of volume, make sure to have equal parts of vinegar and water.
- Spray your kitchen pail thoroughly and wipe completely dry with a cloth or paper towel. If using a paper towel, it can be placed into your kitchen pail for composting when finished.
- To use as a disinfectant, spray your kitchen pail and leave for 5 minutes before wiping dry.
Consider Using Refillable Propane Tanks
Planning a camping trip soon? Switch to refillable propane tanks instead of single-use.
In California alone, more than 4 million cylinders of propane tanks are used every year. To curb that number and make it safer for our workers at our Shoreway Environmental Center, consider opting for refillable propane tanks instead.
For locations on where to purchase 1 lb. refillable propane tanks, visit RefuelYourFun.org.
Tips In Dealing With Rodents
If you have pest problems at your house, there are a number of non-chemical and less toxic ways to deal with them. Try some of these tips if you have some unwanted pests in or around your home.
- A natural alternative to rat poison/pests/insects is to plant eucalyptus to deter rodents.
- Protect your plants with barriers using mesh covers, cages, etc.
- Prune excess plants and bushes so the pests don’t have an area to nest or hide.
- Use either homemade or commercial traps to catch pests.
- Encourage natural predators around your home that will prey on your pests.
- Seal holes and cracks around your home so they won’t get inside.
Here are answers to some of our most asked questions about Household Hazardous Waste.
Do you accept all types of household hazardous waste at the Public Recycling Center in San Carlos?
No, we accept select household hazardous waste items: Motor oil and filters, latex and oil-based paint, batteries, electronic waste, and fluorescent lights. A complete list of what we accept is listed here.
How are batteries and electronic waste (e-waste) disposed of?
Batteries and e-waste that are properly collected get sent to a third-party that sorts the batteries and e-waste by type and then they safely extract the valuable metals inside.
How so I dispose of unwanted medicine?
Unwanted medicines don’t go in any cart and should not be flushed down the toilet. Medicines can contaminate our waterways, so please dispose of them as a safe disposal site, including CVS, Kaiser, local pharmacies, and select police stations. Get a full list of locations here.
Are there alternatives to buying HHW products? Is it possible to get slightly used products?
Check San Mateo County’s Free Product Give Away Program.
The County’s Free Product Give Away Program are household products that are still in good condition and are available for County residents to take for free. Please take only what you need.
*Please note this program IS NOT for drop-off of household hazardous waste.
How do I dispose of old paint?
Paint, stain, and varnish can all be recycled through PaintCare. There are a number of drop-off locations including paint stores. There is also a large volume (more than 200 gallons) pick-up option available. For more information, please visit their website: paintcare.org
Where can I bring electronics to get recycled?
Electronics can be recycled through a number of ways. You can bring them to an E-Scrap event hosted by your City or Area, schedule a Bulky Item Collection, or check RecycleStuff for a drop-off location closest to you.
Where can I dispose of oil filters?
Used motor oil and oil filters can be collected with your regular curbside collection for no additional cost. Used motor oil and filters can also be dropped off at numerous collection centers in San Mateo County. Get a full list of locations here.
What can I do with treated wood waste?
Treated wood waste needs to be disposed of at a specific facility that handles this waste. Check the Department of Toxics Substances Control website for more information.
Ask the HHW Expert
Have a HHW question that’s not listed above? Get answers from our HHW expert. Simply fill out the form below!