Single Family FAQs

This page highlights frequently asked questions for single-family households. Select one of the below topics to get started. 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.

Questions about what is accepted, not accepted and hard to recycle items

Questions about Service and billing

Questions about your rates



Can plastic bags go in the recycling bin?

No, we do not accept plastic bags in the recycling cart. Check your local grocery store to see if they take back plastic bags or visit RecycleStuff.org for a list of drop-off locations.

How can I recycle an old mattress?

Residents can drop off their mattress free of charge, through the Mattress Recycling Council’s Bye Bye Mattress program. Click here to see which mattresses and box springs qualify for recycling.

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 in San Carlos.

How do I recycle my household batteries and old cell phone?

Simply place your household batteries or cell phones in a clear, zip-top bag and place the bag on top of your black Garbage Cart on your collection day. Lithium batteries must be taped and cell phones must be wrapped in paper before being placed in the zip-top bag.

Can I recycle used motor oil and oil filters curbside?

Yes, Recology San Mateo County offers curbside collection of used motor oil and used oil filters for recycling at no additional cost. Upon request, Recology San Mateo County can provide residents with up to five one-gallon plastic jugs for your used motor oil and up to five plastics bags for your used oil filters at a time. Or you can use your own clear one-gallon jugs with sealable lids for motor oil and zip-top bags for oil filters. Place your used motor oil and filters next to your blue recycling cart on your collection day.

How do I schedule a Bulky Item Collection pick-up?

Residents can schedule two On-Call Bulky Item pick ups annually with Recology for no additional cost. Simply contact Recology San Mateo County at (650) 595-3900 to schedule your pick up or visit Recology San Mateo County’s website.

How can I get rid of Household Hazardous Waste?

San Mateo County’s Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) Program helps residents dispose of/recycle their residential hazardous waste properly for free! County residents must make an appointment to drop off a full range of HHW at the permanent collection facility in San Mateo which is open year-round every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday (except major holiday weekends) or at temporary collection events in select cities including Menlo Park, Redwood City and Foster City. Residents can make an appointment by visiting the County’s website or by calling (650) 363-4718 (select option 3).

Why aren’t soy milk containers recyclable?

Soy milk containers 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.

Are old CDs and DVDs recyclable?

No. If you are unable to donate or reuse old CDs and DVDs, these items go in the black Garbage Cart.

Can black plastic go in the recycling bin?

No, black plastic does not go in the recycling bin. Plastic items at the Shoreway Environmental  Center are sorted by optical scanners and black cannot be read by them. Put all black plastic in the black Garbage Cart.

Does the recycling triangle mean that an item is recyclable?

Not necessarily. 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. Learn more here.

Are all plastic 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.

Where can I dispose of cooking oil?

You can dispose of cooking oil at the Shoreway Public Recycling Center, free of charge.

How can I dispose of old paint?

If your paint can is mostly empty, please place empty containers in the recycling cart.

If you still have paint in the can, you have several options to dispose of paint:

  • Schedule a Household Hazardous Waste drop-off appointment with San Mateo County: Click here to make an appointment.
  • Drop off the latex and oil-based paint at the Shoreway Public Recycling Center.
  • Many paint stores now take back paint, stain and varnish yearround for free during their regular business hours as part of the PaintCare program. Find locations here

How do I recycle my holiday tree?

Once you’ve removed all the tinsel, lights, decorations and stands from your holiday tree, you can leave the tree next to your green Compost Cart and Recology will pick it up for you between January 2 – 31 on your regular collection day. Please make sure trees are 8 feet and under. If your tree is taller than 8 feet, cut the tree into lengths of 8 feet or less. After January 31st, trees must be cut up and placed inside the Compost Cart for collection.

Can I use plastic bags in my Kitchen Pail or Compost Cart?

No. Plastics of any kind, including bags, are not accepted in the Compost program. You can use items such as newspaper or paper bags to wrap your food scraps in before placing in the Compost Cart. You can also now use compostable bags to line your kitchen pail or Compost Cart, and to collect food scraps. The bags must be approved as compostable by the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) and can be found at many local retail locations.

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.

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 on where to take this waste.

What is wish-cycling?

Wish-cycling is placing something 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.



How do I get a bigger/smaller cart?

Residents can request smaller or larger Recycle, Compost and Garbage carts by contacting Recology through their website or call them at (650) 595-3900. Please note that changing the size of your black Garbage Cart will affect your garbage bill as rates are based on the size of your Garbage Cart. There is no charge or change in your garbage bill if you change the size of your blue Recycle or green Compost cart.

Can I get additional Recycle or Compost carts?

Yes, you can rent additional carts from Recology San Mateo County for a monthly fee. Contact Recology at carts@recology.com or call (650) 595-3900.

Is there backyard service?

Special Handling Service: Residents who are physically unable to place their carts curbside or roadside for service can request the Special Handling Service from Recology for no additional cost.

View the Special Handling Application for more information and requirements. 

Backyard Collection Service: Residents who do not wish to leave their carts out curbside or roadside can request Backyard Collection Service. Recology will make arrangements to service your carts from a mutually designated area for an additional fee, dependent upon the distance and elevation from the curb. Contact Recology at carts@recology.com or call (650) 595-3900 for more information.

What do I do if I’m having issues with my service?

Please contact Recology San Mateo County at carts@recology.com or call (650) 595-3900 if you experience any issues so that they may be resolved. If you are unable to resolve a service issue with Recology to your satisfaction or would like to report exceptional service provided by the company, please visit this page to contact RethinkWaste.

How do I pay my bill?

You can mail in a check with your bill or pay online through Recology San Mateo County’s website. You can even set up automated billing through Recology’s website to receive bills via e-mail you can then pay online. You can also drop off your payment at Recology’s offices at 225 Shoreway Road in San Carlos. 


Questions about your garbage rates

What’s included in my garbage rate?

Your garbage rate covers a lot more than just picking up your garbage. While each of the 12 RethinkWaste Member Agencies set the rates to address their own community’s unique needs, the garbage rate you pay is set to cover the costs for the following items in most cases:

  • weekly recycling (blue cart) collection
  • weekly compost (green cart) collection
  • curbside used battery and cell phone recycling
  • curbside used motor oil and oil filter recycling
  • twice annual bulky item collection program
  • disposal fees at the landfill
  • processing fees for recycling
  • processing fees for composting
  • street sweeping (in some cities)
  • county fees, local fees, landfill closure fees and household hazardous waste fees

What’s the process to set the garbage rates?

Each year, RethinkWaste works with its Member Agencies to prepare a rate report that specifies how much revenue each agency must raise to cover the cost of service and fees through setting garbage rates for the next calendar year. This report is available in September each year. Each Member Agency then begins their individual rate setting process. This consists of determining what rate adjustments, if any, are needed for their specific community and then the Proposition 218 Notice of Public Hearing process is initiated.

Through Proposition 218, residents are notified of the maximum rate adjustment being considered for that community, giving residents the opportunity to review all the information. Residents are also given instructions on how to provide public input and testimony on the rates being considered.

A public hearing date is set during a city council or other governing board meeting to allow the public the opportunity to provide input, and based on the outcome, the governing body will consider adoption of the proposed rate adjustments. Once approved, the new rates are effective on or after January 1st of each year.

Why are my Hillsborough garbage rates different than my friend in Foster City? We both have a 32-gallon garbage cart, so shouldn’t they be the same?

Each of the 12 Member Agencies set their own rates annually based on their specific community. Each agency also includes its own unique fees, such as street sweeping or franchise fees, but each one makes these decisions as to what fees to include on their own.

In addition, the cost for providing the services varies based on factors such as housing density and having hilly neighborhoods. These factors are also taken into account for the rates and each community is different.

Where does the money from the recyclables go?

The money received from marketing the recyclables is used to help keep the fees for solid waste and organics lower than they otherwise would be. This has a positive impact on garbage rates. Therefore, it’s important for residents and businesses to set out as much recycling as they can for pick up, because it ultimately is used to help keep rates lower.


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 below.