Multi-Family FAQS

This page highlights frequently asked questions for residents in multi-family dwellings (apartment and condominium complexes with five or more units). Click on the questions below to see answers. Don’t see the answers you’re looking for? We’d love to help! Drop us a line and send us your question using our contact form.


How do I recycle my used household batteries and old cell phones?


Some apartments/condos participate in a battery/cell phone bucket program. These orange buckets (pictured) are normally found in common areas such as a lobby, multi-use room, mailroom, or clubhouse. If you don’t see one at your location, ask your Property Manager or owner to request a bucket from Recology.

You can also drop-off your batteries for free at participating locations within the RethinkWaste service area. For a map of drop-off locations and more information about battery disposal, visit our battery page.

How do I get rid of bulky items (appliances, furniture)?

If you have items you want to get rid of that still may be of use to someone else, such as furniture, clothing, or other household items, please consider donating usable items to family/friends, local charities, or non-profit organizations such as secondhand stores. Check RecycleStuff.org for donation locations. Other online resources include Nextdoor, FreeCycle, Facebook Marketplace, and Craigslist.

If none of those options are available or if your item is no longer usable, please contact your Property Manager to schedule a bulky item pick-up for your entire complex from Recology. For a fee, you can individually schedule a bulky item pick-up from Recology, or you can drop them off at the Shoreway Environmental Center. Check out this pricing list, as fees may apply for certain items.

How can I recycle an old mattress or old box spring?

Residents can drop off their mattress free of charge at the Shoreway Transfer Station. This drop off is part of the Mattress Recycling Council’s Bye Bye Mattress program. Refer here to see which mattresses and box springs qualify for recycling. Two free Bulky Item Collections are also provided per calendar year for multi-family complexes (NOT per individual unit). Check with your Property Manager about scheduling one for your complex.

How do I recycle my holiday tree?

Example of how to properly set out your tree
Once you’ve removed all the tinsel, lights, decorations and stands from your holiday tree. Holiday trees can be collected in centrally located pile(s), on-site compost containers, or in a debris box for no additional charge between January 2 and 31. 

Where can I dispose of my hazardous waste (Latex and oil-based paint, fluorescent lights, cleaners, aerosols cans, propane tanks, pesticides, and motor oil/filters)?

San Mateo County’s Household Hazardous Waste Program helps residents responsibly dispose of their hazardous waste for free. Residents MUST schedule an appointment at smchealth.org/hhw or by calling (650) 363-4718 (select option 3). For more options and information on hazardous waste disposal, visit our household hazardous waste page.

The Shoreway Public Recycling Center also accepts select hazardous waste such as paint, fluorescent light bulbs and tubes, motor oil and filters for free drop-off. Find a list of accepted items at our Shoreway Public Recycling Center page.

Where can I dispose of cooking oil?

You can dispose of cooking oil at the Shoreway Public Recycling Center, free of charge. Residents can drop off up to 15 gallons of cooking oil per visit.

Where can I dispose of expired medicines?

There are over 50 locations in San Mateo County that accept unwanted and expired medicines, including CVS, local pharmacies and police stations. Visit Med-Project to find locations near you.

What is wish-cycling?

Wish-cycling is placing non-recyclable items in the recycle bin “wishing” it will be sorted and recycled. Before you need to sort your waste, please check out WhatBin.com to see where the item correctly belongs or use RecycleStuff.org for items that don’t go into any cart or bin. Check out this sorting game to test your waste knowledge!

Does the chasing arrows mean that an item is recyclable?

Not necessarily, chasing arrows symbol simply indicates that the item is made of plastic, not that the item is readily recyclable. We only accept plastic materials with a number that ranges from 1-7. The numbers indicate the type of plastic material the item is made of. If there is no number and it cannot be reused, it goes into the garbage.

How clean do my recyclables need to be before they go into the blue bin?

Recyclables like hard plastic and glass jars and bottles need to be about 90% clean before they go into the recycling bin/cart. It’s important to ensure that liquids don’t end up in the recycling bin so paper products don’t get contaminated.

Are all plastics recycled after being collected?

Plastics, along with any item collected for recycling, must have a downstream or end market where it can be turned into something new to be recycled. Without a destination (or an end market) where materials can be made into something new, “recyclables” wouldn’t be actually “recycled.” Right now, number plastics labeled 3-7 do not have a market, and therefore these plastics are currently being landfilled. Visit this page for more information about how plastics are recycled in the RethinkWaste service area.

Should my recyclables be put into a bag before being put into the blue bin/cart?

No, recyclables should be placed LOOSE into the recycling bin/cart. Residents can request a reusable Recycling Buddy Bag from Recology, free of charge, which makes collecting and carrying your recyclables easier.

Can plastic bags go in the recycling bin/cart?

No, we do not accept plastic bags in the recycling bin/cart, because they often get caught in the machinery at the Shoreway Environmental Center, risking damage to the facility and endangering our workers. Check your local grocery store to see if they take back plastic bags or visit Recyclestuff.org for a list of drop-off locations.

Why can’t black plastic go in the recycling bin/cart?

Plastic items at the Shoreway Environmental Center are sorted by optical scanners and the machine can not identify black plastics. Additionally, black plastic is a lower quality plastic and does not have a market to be sold to. If you cannot reuse it, black plastic belongs in the garbage bin/cart.

Why aren’t shelf stable containers such as soy milk containers recyclable?

Soy milk containers, commonly known as Tetra Paks, are usually aseptic containers, which means they are made up of different materials, such as foil, paper and plastic. Since the materials are glued closely together, it makes it difficult for us to separate the materials to be recycled. These types of containers usually hold broth or milk, and can be found in the shelf-stable section of the grocery store.

Does aluminum foil with food on it need to be cleaned?

No, the aluminum foil does not need to be cleaned. Shake off any excess food, crinkle the foil into a ball (food-side in), and then place in your blue recycling bin.

Are old CDs and DVDs recyclable?

If you are unable to donate or reuse old CDs and DVDs, these items go in the garbage. However, they can be dropped off at Green Citizen in Burlingame for a small fee ($1.00/lb to recycle).

Does shredded paper need to go in a bag for recycling?

Yes. Please place shredded paper inside a paper bag labeled “Shredded Paper” and then into the recycling bin to prevent spillage and littering when bins are picked up.

Where can I recycle clothes?

Recology of San Mateo County does not recycle textiles. Most thrift stores like Goodwill and the Salvation Army participate in textile recycling and can take old or unwanted clothing in good condition. Some stores also accept worn clothes for recycling. North Face, H&M, and Madewell collect used apparel and shoes and provide discounts to customers that bring items in. Also, check your local pet shelter, such as Peninsula Humane Society as they may take old linens as bedding for animals.


How does Senate Bill (SB) 1383 affect residents living in apartments/condos?

Senate Bill 1383 is a piece of California-wide legislation that aims to reduce emissions of short-lived climate pollutants, including methane, which is released when organic waste ends up in the landfill. The law mandates composting services and edible food recovery programs throughout the state. If you don’t have compost at your apartment or condo, reach out to your Property Manager so that they can coordinate adding this service with Recology.

What materials can go in the compost cart besides yard waste and food scraps?

Food soiled paper, including paper takeout containers, wooden utensils like chopsticks and popsicle sticks, and greasy cardboard pizza boxes belong in the compost. A full list of acceptable items can be found here.

Why can’t I use plastic bags in my kitchen compost pail?

Plastic of any kind, including bags, are not accepted in the Compost cart/bin, as they are not made of organic material and will not break down in an industrial compost facility. We recommend lining your kitchen pail with a BPI-certified bag, newspaper, or paper bag to keep it clean. Emptying the contents of your kitchen pail every 1-2 days prevents odors. Lastly, consider keeping your pail in the freezer, as freezing the pail prevents leaks and smells. For more kitchen pail tips, visit our compost page.

Where can I get free compost?

We offer free compost at our Shoreway Transfer Station in San Carlos, for all residents within our service area. Visit our Compost page to learn more.

When is the next shredding and/or e-scrap collection event?

Check our events page for the next shred/e-scrap event in your city or town. Shred and E-Scrap events are held annually by RethinkWaste and on behalf of our participating Member Agencies.

E-Scrap is accepted year-round at the Shoreway Public Recycling Center.

Don’t see the answers you’re looking for? We’d love to help! Drop us a line and send us your question using our contact form.