Choose to Reuse on Your Next Adventure

Kick your camping ⛺ and outdoor adventure 🛶 season off right by choosing a reusable 1 lb. propane cylinder through a participating ReFuel Your Fun Program retailer!

Avoid Single-Use 1 lb.
Propane Cylinders
Choose Reusable 1lb.
Propane Cylinders
🚨 Safety❌”Empty” single-use 1 lb. propane containers often contain a small amount of flammable gas, posing a danger to sanitation workers✅Sanitation workers receive fewer cylinders to process, reducing risks of explosion and fire
🚛 Waste Reduction & Durability❌ Limited, expensive recycling and disposal options
❌ Empty cylinders often discarded improperly
❌ Not safe to refill after one use
❌ No exchange options
✅Can be refilled hundreds of times for up to 10 years
✅Can be exchanged for a full 1 lb. propane cylinder if not refilled (at participating locations)
💲 Cost-Effective ❌ Cheaper up front (~$7)
❌ Expensive for facilities, recyclers, and parks to safely dispose of
✅Slightly more expensive up front (~$20), but less expensive after just a few uses (~$2 per refill)
✅Some locations (like Sports Basement) offer free refills for reusable cylinders purchased through them

To find out how to safely dispose of your single-use 1 lb. propane cylinders visit the ReFuel Your Fun (RFYF) website.

Are you a business looking to be more sustainable? Here are three ways to get involved with RFYF:

  1. Sell, exchange, and/or refill reusable 1 lb. propane cylinders. 🏪
  2. Promote reusables with free shelf talkers, flyers, and stickers provided by Environmental Health Services. 📄
  3. Host a RFYF exchange or promotional event. ⛺

For more information about the RFYF Program visit or contact the program coordinator Emilie Dirck at 📧, 📲 (650) 464-7079, or book an appointment for a site visit consultation.

Spring cleaning is around the corner!

Ready to deep-clean? Reduce your exposure to cleaning chemicals by opting for basic ingredients found in your pantry, such as white vinegar, baking soda, and liquid soap. Try a few safer cleaning products and share your experience with us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram @smchealth or leave a comment on this blog!

Demonstration on how to make a creamy cleanser

Look for mold! Deep cleaning following our heavy winter rainstorms helps you find mold that may have grown, but you do not see. For example, look behind and under cardboard boxes, which attract moisture and pose conditions for mold growth, mainly due to lack of ventilation and the organic material they are made from (tree pulp). Boxes that are stacked, pushed up against a wall, or stored in a closet inhibit air circulation.

💡 Helpful hint: It’s not necessary to clean mold with chlorine bleach. Try hot, soapy water and be prepared to DRY THE AREA THOROUGHLY. If you do not dry the area, the mold may return due to existing moisture in the air.

Attention! Mold spores occur naturally in the outdoors, and easily enter a home (not through the front door alone). Once mold spores make contact with a damp surface, mold can easily grow.

Some conditions that promote mold growth:

  • Moisture in the air from cooking, bathing, and even breathing.
  • Lack of ventilation or air circulation in all rooms, including, and especially in, closets. Use ventilation fans and open windows when cooking and bathing.
  • Lack of air circulation and clutter, combined with moisture that enters from the outside. Many apartment buildings were not built with insulation, which can protect your home from some amount of moisture intrusion. Mold is common below windows and exterior walls (walls not shared with an adjacent room or apartment unit) so be sure to move furniture at least 6 inches away from the wall to allow for air circulation.

Check our healthy homes resources, as well as California Department of Public Health’s highly informative mold reduction and prevention resources.

Carpets? Consider a vacuum with a HEPA filter to safely remove allergens, dust, and residue from shoes that accumulate over time in throw rugs and carpets.

More safer cleaning resources:

🌎Women’s Voices for the Earth demonstrates how to make safer cleaning products at home!
🧼 Our 3 Steps to a Healthy Home also highlights less toxic pest and mold control.
🧽 Environmental Working Group (EWG)-Verified Cleaning Products
🌎 The Safer Choice Label for safer cleaning, car care, laundry, dish detergent, degreasers, and other consumer products for the home that contain the least toxic ingredients.

Making the switch? Have you decided to opt for less toxic products and would like to donate your existing cleaning products? Make an appointment for an upcoming collection event near you. The Product Give Away Program at the San Mateo County Household Hazardous Waste Facility will donate partially or unused products.

Hazardous Products: Convenient Recycling and Used Products for Free!

Did you have flooding in your home? Reduce potential harm and avoid contamination

Flooding can put our health and the environment at risk. Floodwater may contain raw sewage, animal waste, toxic substances, chemical compounds, fungus, bacteria, and other harmful materials. If floodwaters come in contact with hazardous products in the home, such as batteries, paint, paint thinner, pesticides, fertilizers, and cleaners, the products may become household hazardous waste (HHW). Visit to make an appointment to safely dispose of HHW. Events take place every weekend around the County!

Recent heavy rains tend to increase mold growth so check out 3 Steps to a Healthy Home for mold control guidance.

Spotlight: Neighborhood Retail Partners increase HHW recycling!

Neighborhood retail partners increase HHW drop-off opportunities and make it easy to clear our homes of hazardous waste. The San Mateo County Household Hazardous Waste Program partners with retail stores around the County to increase easy drop-off options for safe HHW recycling, right in your neighborhood! If you have paint*, household batteries, or fluorescent lights only, it’s not necessary to make an appointment at an HHW collection event. The County partners with local retail stores to provide you with convenient neighborhood drop-off sites.

Paint only? Visit

*Visit for neighborhood drop-off sites. PaintCare accepts latex, acrylic, water-based, alkyd, oil-based, enamel, primers, sealers, stains, and varnishes. They do not accept paint thinner, mineral spirits, solvents, or aerosol paints (spray cans). For these products, make a collection event appointment at Check for a complete list of accepted products.

Interested in Second Chances? Our Give Away Program makes it happen!

Many items collected at San Mateo County’s Household Hazardous Waste Collection Facility are in good, usable condition. Products may include home and heavy-duty cleaners, solvents, auto supplies, pesticides, fertilizers, adhesives, paint, and stains. The Product Give Away Program redistributes these products for free each Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 2-3 p.m. at the San Mateo County HHW Facility.

Two Minutes of Your Time Can Earn You a Place To Stash Your Butts

Do you or someone in your life smoke cigarettes?

The County’s Pollution Prevention Program is tasked with reducing cigarette waste’s harmful impact on our environment.

Some years ago, cars 🚗 usually came with an ashtray built into the vehicle, but with smoking rates on the decline, most newer cars no longer come with a built-in ashtray.

Similarly, with fewer people who smoke and more restrictions on where it’s legal to smoke, it’s not as easy as it once was to find a receptacle within eyesightsmoke.  

So, what’s someone who smokes supposed to do with the butt of their cigarette when on the road or out and about?

Use a free pocket ashtray. It snaps shut, contains odor, has a cute otter 🦦 image on it, and… surprise! It will fit in your pocket or purse.

Take a 2-minute survey and we’ll mail you a free pocket ashtray. To be eligible, you must be a San Mateo County resident who smokes.

Our Program cares about our environment, and your health – spring into action even if you don’t need a pocket ashtray to stow away butts. Visit for resources to help you or a loved one quit smoking 🚭.

Environmental Health Services Spotlight: Housing Program

Environmental Health Services’ (EHS) Housing Program protects the health and safety of residents and people visiting and living in San Mateo County. Inspection staff ensure property owners, managers, and tenants comply with state and local housing laws. They work to eliminate substandard housing and prevent accidents, illnesses, and diseases caused by substandard housing.

“I see so many variations in people and ways to live [being an inspector], but the one thing that everyone has in common is wanting a safe and healthy spot to call home.” – Inspector James Tanner

Staff inspect the following:

  • 🛎 Hotels, motels, and bed and breakfasts
  • 🏢 Apartment buildings (with 4+ units)
  • 🏡 Employee housing (that house 5+ employees)
  • 🏕 Organized youth camps
  • 🚃 Mobile home parks (within unincorporated San Mateo County)
  • 🚨 Detention facilities

Staff conduct regular inspections and respond to public complaints. You have the right to clean and safe housing including, but not limited to plumbing, fire safety, heat, pests, trash disposal, and electrical.

“I believe it is a team effort between inspectors, owners, and tenants to secure and maintain a safe and sanitary home” – Inspector Maria Gomez-Casillas

Visit to learn more about the Program and how to file a complaint.

Coastal Cleanup 2022 – Calling All Volunteers!

Get your reusable gloves 🧤, buckets, and water bottles 💧 ready! There are two ways to participate in the annual litter cleanup event this September:

  1. Join the main event on Saturday, September 17th from 9 a.m. to noon – San Mateo County is hosting over 50 cleanup sites led by site captains with thousands of volunteers gathering in groups to remove litter before it breaks up into smaller pieces, injures wildlife, or ends up in our waterways 🌊.
  2. Cleanup all monthlong – can’t join the main event? You can still make a difference right outside your doorsteps 🚪. Gather your family and friends, go solo, or bring fido 🐕‍🦺, and pick up litter in your neighborhood throughout September.

If you are looking for an opportunity to help beautify and protect your community, and be inspired by fellow volunteers, register today at to find a location near you.

Three Easy and Free Ways to Recycle Used Motor Oil and Filters

Do you or someone you know change their vehicle’s motor oil? If you’re in the DIY oil change club, read on to find out about your recycling options. Already went electric? This high five is for you ✋.

1. Recycle at a collection center – Over 50 drop-off options to choose from.
🏪 No appointment needed.
🏪 Calling ahead is recommended as storage tanks can get full.
🏪 Always give your used oil and filter to a staff person during business hours, don’t leave the materials outside the building.

2. Recycle at the curb – Never leave home.
🗑 No appointment needed.
🗑 Place your used oil and filter next to your recycling bin on your regular collection day.
🗑 Some haulers provide free recycling containers for your use. Visit the link above to check requirements and limits.
🗑 Not available for Recology San Bruno and Recology of the Coast customers.

3. Recycle through the County’s Household Hazardous Waste Program – Clean out your garage and safely get rid of all your hazardous products that are expired or unwanted at the same time. 
📅 Upcoming appointments are available!

♻ San Mateo | August 27, September 1, 2, 8, 9, 10
♻ Foster City | August 27
♻ Daly City | September 10
♻ Redwood City | September 24  
♻ South San Francisco | October 1
♻ More appointment dates are available on the website.

📅 Bring used motor oil and filters and other household hazardous waste items like paint, batteries, CFL bulbs, antifreeze, etc. Here’s a link to what is and is not accepted through the Program.

⚠ Reminder! Used motor oil mixed with anything else can’t be recycled and must be managed through the County’s Household Hazardous Waste Program. 

⚠ Don’t forget your filter! Both metal and paper/cartridge filters must be managed using one of the three options above. They are hazardous and can’t be trashed.

🔧 Do you need supplies to complete your oil change? Email if you need an oil drain pan, oil filter recycling container, oil rag, or funnel to get the job done right. Limit two items per resident, while supplies last. Must pick up from our office in San Mateo during business hours.

Environmental Health Services Spotlight: Water Protection Program

Coastal Cleanup is on the horizon 🌅, but how does San Mateo County Environmental Health Services (EHS) care for beaches and waterways 🌊 year-round?

💧 EHS staff and volunteers collect water samples from recreational waters around the County along the oceanside and bayside each Monday.

🔬These samples are analyzed for fecal-indicator bacteria including Total Coliforms, E. coli, and Enterococci by the San Mateo County Public Health Laboratory.

🛑 The results are then used by EHS to evaluate the need to post warning signs at locations with bacteria levels that exceed State thresholds. These findings may also be used to investigate potential sources of pollution.

Interested in a career that protects people 👪 and the environment 🌄? Explore the EHS Water Protection Program webpage here, and contact to schedule an informational interview. To learn more about the weekly beach and creek mouth monitoring and volunteer opportunities, check out the beach webpage and their newsletter!

Stella, one of Environmental Health Services’ Water Protection Program staff, collects water samples to be tested.

You don’t have to be part of the EHS team to help protect your favorite water spots!

🙋Volunteer for Coastal Cleanup this September! Remove litter before it makes its way to a storm drain. Register with a group or go solo – visit

🐶🐱Pick up pet waste during walks and in your own yard, especially before a storm ☔. Take Flows To Bay’s Scoop the Poop Pledge for a chance to win a free pet canister.

🚽 If you have a septic system, ensure that you inspect and pump your tank every 3-5 years to ensure it is working properly.

❌ Do not put anything into storm drains and call your city’s public works department if you see illegal dumping.

🐌🌱 Limit or eliminate your use of harmful pesticides and fertilizers as they can leach into the watershed and pollute recreational waters.

Thank you for doing your part to care for your community and the environment. 🌍

Eat Safe Seafood

Finish your fishing season 🎣 off right by knowing which seafood you catch or collect from San Francisco Bay are safe to eat and how to best prepare them.

Fishing Facts 🐳

🚻 Different ages and sexes should eat different species and portions of fish to avoid harmful levels of toxins that can build up in them.

🦈 Larger and older fish bioaccumulate (build up) more chemicals and can be dangerous to eat compared to younger, smaller fish.

📝 Signs posted throughout San Mateo County fishing areas, digital and paper flyers help you choose safe fish when casting your line.

⛺ Free demonstrations and lessons are available to the public! If you have a group (outdoor club, scout troop, medical professional team, etc.) you’d like to educate about the Fish Smart Program or event you’d like us to table at, contact the Fish Smart Program Coordinator Emilie Dirck for a free in-person or virtual presentation.

For more information about the Fish Smart Program, visit or contact Emilie Dirck at or (650) 464-7079.

Sport-harvested Shellfish more to your liking?

🐚 There are naturally occurring toxins that build up in shellfish and can cause domoic acid poisoning or paralytic shellfish poisoning.

✅ Only collect and eat shellfish during  safer collection times from Nov 1 – April 30. The annual quarantine period is from May 1 – Oct 31.

👀 Keep your eyes out for signs at popular collection sites that indicate a shellfish quarantine is in effect.

🛑 DO NOT collect or consume shellfish along the California coast during a quarantine. 

📞 Always call the biotoxin hotline at 1-800-553-4133 before consuming shellfish you collect as a quarantine can happen during safer collection times too.

🍽 Commercial shellfish available at restaurants and eateries are not subject to the quarantine. Commercial shellfish harvesters in California grow their shellfish in hatcheries and submit frequent shellfish samples to the California Department of Public Health for toxin testing.

Interested in more information about shellfish safety? Check out our website or contact

Paint Your Walls and the Town, Then Recycle!

PaintCare makes it easy to recycle leftover paint!

🎨 What can I drop off?
PaintCare drop-off sites accept the following:
-Latex, acrylic, enamel, and water and oil-based paints
-Primers, stains, sealers, and clear coatings such as shellac and varnish

  🎨 Where do I drop off my paint?
-Local drop-off sites are located near you. Neighborhood PaintCare sites do not require an appointment! Find your closest site at

🎨  How much can I drop off?
-Paint must be in its original container of no larger than 5 gallons in size
-Most sites accept up to 10 gallons per drop-off visit
-Products must have the original manufacturer’s printed label on the container
-The container must be covered with a secured lid

 🎨 Before you PaintCare, PaintSmart!
PaintCare provides guidance on how much paint to buy, how to make your paint last longer in storage, and how to use up or give away leftover paint

 🎨 Items NOT Accepted by PaintCare
-Aerosol products, solvents, paint thinners, mineral spirits, and auto or marine paints
-Leaking, unlabeled, or uncovered cans

Place non-leaking containers in boxes or crates. Do not use plastic garbage bags.

Do you have items that are not accepted by PaintCare and other household hazardous wastes, such as pesticides, fertilizers, solvents, cleaning, automotive, and home improvement products? Make a drop-off appointment at an upcoming household hazardous waste collection event in Daly City, Foster City, Pacifica, Portola Valley, Redwood City, South San Francisco, or San Mateo.

Visit for more information on HHW and learn What Goes Where.

Safer Products Corner: Spotlight on the Safer Choice Label

After you clear out the hazards, choose less toxic products. Search the Safer Choice Label for safer cleaning, car care, laundry, dish detergent, degreasers, and other consumer products for the home that contain the least toxic ingredients.

Don’t forget about safer cleaning products already found in your kitchen pantry! And be sure to check out our 3 Steps to a Healthy Home for advice on less toxic pest and mold control.

Women’s Voices for the Earth also showcases simple steps to make safer cleaning products at home!

Many items collected at San Mateo County’s Household Hazardous Waste Collection Facility are in good, usable condition. Products may include home and heavy-duty cleaners, solvents, auto supplies, pesticides, fertilizers, adhesives, and stains. The Product Give Away Program redistributes these products for free each Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 2-3 p.m.