Cigarette Butts Recycled into a Bench

The local nonprofit Pacific Beach Coalition has picked up over 1 million littered cigarette butts since 2013. These cigarette butts have been recycled into a park bench located at Mussel Rock Park in Daly City – newly installed in January 2022.

How is a bench made out of cigarette butts? Pacific Beach Coalition sends all their butts to TerraCycle’s Cigarette Waste Recycling Program. The butts are processed –  the synthetic part of the butt gets melted down, turned into a powder, and mixed into recycled plastic lumber. This lumber can be turned into fencing, decks, benches, and more.

Join Pacific Beach Coalition for their monthly Mussel Rock cleanup where you can rest your butt on a bench made out of butts after you’re done.

For more litter cleanup event options, and resources for residents and businesses looking to get involved in extinguishing cigarette butt litter in the County, visit smchealth.org/cigbutts.  

Your Guide to Healthier Nails – Pretty Shouldn’t Stink!

Environmental Health Services’ (EHS) Healthy Nail Salon Program launched the Healthy Nail Salon Program in 2013 due to health concerns for nail technicians and customers exposed to hazardous chemicals found in nail products. Health impacts linked to nail salon chemicals include cancer, birth defects, asthma, rashes, and more.

The Program promotes nail salons that are healthier for customers, employees, and the planet. The Program supports local San Mateo County businesses by:

The Program addresses an industry whose workers have historically compromised their health by being exposed to and inhaling dangerous chemical cocktails for hours at a time. EGS staff is working to make nail salons a safer place for employees and customers alike by educating salon owners and employees on improving indoor air quality by opening windows and doors, using a ventilation unit that filters toxic acrylic dust and fumes from the air, and by participating in an annual audit to ensure that only the least toxic nail polish, removers, and acrylic liquids and powders are used on customers. If you are fussy about fumes, book your next nail service at a certified Healthy Nail Salon:

  1. Visit a certified Healthy Nail Salon. Find one near you at smchealth.org/healthynails
  2. Buy or use nail polishes without the toxic trio: Dibuytl Phthalate, Formaldehyde, and Toluene.
  3. Ask for acrylic liquids without: Methyl Methacrylate (MMA).
  4. Buy or use nail polish removers without: Toluene and Butyl Acetate.

5 Eco Tips for the Ocean-Loving Boater

Boaters are drawn to the beauty and serenity of our oceans and waterways. They’re also responsible for preventing pollution and protecting our marine ecosystems, which are sensitive to hazardous waste, motor oil, and trash that may come from boats. Hazardous waste and motor oil can be harmful to marine wildlife, even in small quantities. Additionally, ocean animals may become entangled in trash or mistake plastic for food.

Luckily, there are many ways boaters can get “all aboard” with pollution prevention. Here are five eco tips for the ocean-loving boater:

  1. ⚠️Safety First – Switch to Reusable Flares
  • Boaters in the U.S. are legally required to carry visual distress signals. However, expired, single-use marine flares are extremely hard to dispose of and are considered explosive hazardous waste. 
  • Go reusable –Stock your boat with Electronic Visual Distress Signal Devices (eVDSDs). They are safer for your family, better for the environment, never expire, and are ultimately more cost-effective.

Save 10%! For the rest of 2022, California boaters can take advantage of this discount for a U.S. Coast Guard approved pyrotechnic flare replacement from Sirius Signal.

2. 🛢️ Safely Dispose of Used Oil and Oil-related Items

  • Used motor oil, oil filters, and oil cleanup absorbents (e.g. bilge pads) pose a threat to the ocean and our waterways if not properly disposed of. 
  • If you’re a boater in San Mateo County, your marina will help you recycle or safely manage used oil, filters, and oil absorbent materials — call your Harbormaster for details or click here for a marina phone directory. 

If you live elsewhere in the Bay Area, check out this San Francisco Bay Clean Boating Map for locations of marina-based pollution prevention services.

3. ☢️ Properly Dispose of Hazardous Waste

  • Many items you may have in your boat such as paints, varnishes, batteries, oil, oil filters, and old fuel are hazardous waste that pose a threat to humans and the marine environment. 
  • Too toxic to trash – safely manage hazardous waste using retail drop-off locations, curbside pick up, or by making a FREE drop-off appointment

4. 🧼 Go Green and Clean

Many cleaning products contain chemicals that are harmful to marine ecosystems if released directly into waterways. 

  • Choose less toxic cleaning products, which were tested by the BoatUS Foundation for eco-friendliness and effectiveness. 
  • Wash your boat on land in a designated wash area or on a permeable surface that will absorb and filter the wash water.

5. ♻️ Repurpose and Recycle Old Gear

If you have unwanted boating gear that is still in good condition:

Out with the old, in with the new – if your gear is past its useful lifetime, see if there are options to recycle it into something new. For instance, SeaBags turns old sails into reusable bags, and Suga recycles old wetsuits into new yoga mats!

These tips are brought to you by San Mateo County Environmental Health Services (EHS). EHS works to ensure a safe and healthy environment in San Mateo County through education, regulation, and monitoring. Visit smchealth.org/boatoil for more boater information and resources. 

Fishing Smart in the Bay Area

With the fishing season upon us, are you catching and eating the safest fish for your family? San Mateo County Environmental Health Services has a dedicated Fish Smart Program to help fishers prepare and eat fish safely from the ocean and the bay. You may have seen our signs at your favorite fishing spots which promote eating certain fish, but why?

The California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) creates regional and state guides on safe-to-eat fish based on two toxins found in ocean and bay fish: polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and mercury. Consuming fish with higher levels of these toxins can cause cancer (Mercury) and damage growing brains (PCBs). These toxins can also accumulate in the body of mothers and can be passed on to their children if eaten during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. Not all fish are created equal –  some fish have these high toxin levels and some fish are healthy to eat. Fish containing omega-3s can reduce your risk for heart disease and improve brain development in unborn babies and children. Fish are an excellent source of protein while being low in saturated fats. 

Why do some fish have higher levels of these toxins than others? There are many factors that contribute to the accumulation of toxins in fish. Where a fish swims, its age, diet, and size all determine how many chemicals may be in its body. In general, fish who eat other fish (biomagnification) and are larger and older (bioaccumulation) will have more chemicals in their bodies. Both bioaccumulation and biomagnification occur in fish caught in the ocean and bay regions of San Mateo County.

To stay safe this fishing season, visit our Fish Smart website to find both bay and coast fish eating guides (in the language of your choice), or refer to our signs at your local fishing spot or pier. Not seeing a sign at your favorite spot? Have questions about the Fish Smart Program? Contact Fish Smart’s Program Coordinator Emilie Dirck at edirck@smcgov.org or (650) 464-7079. Curious about shellfish safety? We have resources for safe shellfish collection, too! Visit our website or call the biotoxin hotline (1-800-553-4133) to ensure you are consuming safe shellfish at home.  Happy Fishing!

Household Hazardous Waste Program and Healthy Homes

Open Your Window to Greet Spring and Safer Cleaning

As we open our windows to enjoy longer days and warmer breezes, ventilation promotes air exchange which is necessary to control moisture and mold. Visit our Healthy Homes resources and the CA Department of Public Health’s Mold in the Home English and Spanish video series. Lastly, visit our Three Steps to a Healthy Home for step-by-step actions to safely reduce pests and mold. Women’s Voices for the Earth showcases simple steps to make safer cleaning products at home!

Home Safe Home

Place non-leaking containers in boxes or crates. Do nut use plastic garbage bags.

Time to clear out old or unwanted household hazardous waste (HHW) products and make way for safer products. Pesticides and fertilizers, solvents, chemical cleaning products, and automotive and home improvement products are considered hazardous and can be safely recycled through the County’s HHW Program. Make an appointment at an upcoming collection event in Redwood City, Foster City, South San Francisco, or San Mateo.

Have batteries, paint, used motor oil and filters, or fluorescent lights? Safely drop them off at a local retail take-back location. No appointment needed! Find a drop-off site near you. It’s illegal and unsafe to put HHW in the trash or down the drain.

Women! We Celebrate the History of a Community Champion Against Toxic Waste

For Women’s History Month, Environmental Health Services celebrates a brave woman who took on toxic dumping and won a victory for all communities. In 1978, Lois Gibbs was raising her family in Love Canal in upstate New York when she discovered her neighborhood and her children’s school sat next to 20,000 tons of buried toxic chemicals. Learn more at the Center for Environment, Health & Justice.

HHW Middle School Education Program

Calling all middle school teachers! Environmental Health Services has created a new and exciting education initiative which introduces HHW to students. Educational themes focus on how to identify hazardous products, labeling, and safety in their use, storage, and management once a product is no longer needed or useful. Interested in scheduling a 30-45 minute interactive presentation? Visit our website to learn more.

Trash to Treasure

Too Good to Waste! 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.

Coastal Cleanup Day – September 18, 2021

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Coastal Cleanup Day is back in action to the way it was before COVID-19. This
litter cleanup event will be in-person, with site captains and volunteers following the most current San Mateo County Health Order at all times. Grab your buckets, gloves, and loved ones, and enjoy a return to normalcy by gathering with others once again to make a difference in your community.

On Saturday, September 18, 2021, from 9 a.m. to noon, San Mateo County is hosting over 50 cleanup sites and thousands of volunteers gathering in groups to divert and recycle litter to prevent it from ending up in our ocean as pollution.

This is a welcome change from last year where COVID-19 safety requirements only permitted households to clean up their local neighborhoods. While Coastal Cleanup 2020 was a great way to get outside during the pandemic, multiple veteran volunteers stated it “just wasn’t the same. There is a sense of coming together as a community that motivates and inspires people.”

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

Butts in the Bay or on the Beach Bugging You?

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Cigarette butts are made of plastic and do not biodegrade.

Cigarette butts that are dropped or flicked away as litter can easily be blown or washed into storm drains that lead directly into waterways without filtration.

Be a Cigarette Butt Litter Leader:

  1. Request and give FREE pocket and auto ashtrays to friends and family who smoke to remind them to bin their butts. Email pollutionprevention@smcgov.org or call/text (650) 388-2646 to request one today.
  2. Help pick up these tiny, toxic pieces of litter by participating in litter cleanup events, like Coastal Cleanup Day on Saturday, September 18, 2021! Visit smchealth.org/ccd for more information.
  3. Call, text, or email us if you see a cigarette butt litter hot spot area in need of some attention.

For more information on cigarette butt litter reduction in San Mateo County visit smchealth.org/cigbutts.


School Share Tables

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Addressing Food Waste and Insecurity in Post-Pandemic Times

While COVID-19 has deeply affected all of us, some of the hardest-hit places during the pandemic were schools. Many families in San Mateo County who experience food insecurity rely on school breakfasts and lunches to keep their children fed. While schools were closed and classes were held remotely, many families struggled to put food on their tables. With
schools returning to in-person instruction for the 2021-2022 school year, San Mateo County
is working hard to make sure school share tables are a safe, healthy resource to reduce hunger and food waste in accordance with California Retail Food Code and COVID-19 safety standards.

A school share table allows students who don’t finish their school lunches to put their unopened or unbitten food on a table where other students, who may still be hungry, can have extra helpings. By monitoring the school share table during meal times and strictly adhering to food handling laws and COVID-19 safety protocols, food left on the share table at the end of a lunch period can be used for another school meal or donated to a non-profit and distributed to other people in the community. The School Share Table Program is just one way San Mateo County is curtailing climate change and safely serving the diverse needs of its people during the pandemic.
“Our overarching goal is to meet the needs of the environment while also meeting the needs of San Mateo County’s residents,” states Emilie Dirck, San Mateo County’s School Share Table program coordinator. “Safety is at the forefront of our Share Table Program and we are striving to keep all children and school staff healthy by incorporating COVID-19 protocols into school meal routines.”
If you are a family member, teacher, or school administrator interested in establishing a share table at your school, please contact San Mateo County Environmental Health Services at (650) 464-7079 or visit smchealth.org/sharetable for more information. Together we can end hunger and combat climate change.

Household Hazardous Waste Program – We’re Back!

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Is your closet, garage or carport planning a revolt unless you free up some space?
San Mateo County’s convenient household hazardous waste (HHW) recycling opportunities help you safely free up space and help you breathe easier. Less HHW means a healthier home.

HHW is waste from your home that is toxic, corrosive, flammable, or reactive based on its chemical properties. Products such as batteries, paint and paint thinner, pesticides and fertilizers, and poisons are considered hazardous waste. It’s illegal and unsafe to dump HHW in the trash or down the drain.

One-Day Collection Events Have Resumed!

Visit smchealth.org/hhw to make a drop-off appointment, find a list of alternative, safe management options for hard-to-recycle special items, and find local recycling and disposal options for paint, electronics, fluorescent lights, medicines, and more.

Ready to go to your HHW drop-off appointment? Do not package HHW in plastic bags! Boxes or containers are safer for you and the HHW event staff.

Moving? Things to Know Before You Go

If you have HHW you no longer need or do not want to move, make sure you don’t leave them behind.
Homeowners and tenants are legally responsible for the safe management of any HHW in the home. That means your realtor or landlord cannot move or legally transport your HHW – HHW can only legally be transported by the person or persons who generated that waste.
If you’re moving out make sure to properly dispose of your HHW, and if you’re moving in—confirm that you’re not stuck with the leftovers. Visit smchealth.org/moving for more information. If you have questions, contact us at hhw@smcgov.org or (650) 372-6200.

Upcoming 2021 HHW Collection Events

September
Daly City
Saturday, September 11
Redwood City
Saturday, September 25
San Mateo
Weekly, Thursday-Saturday

October
South San Francisco Saturday, October 2
Portola Valley
Saturday, October 23
San Mateo
Weekly, Thursday-Saturday

November
South San Francisco Saturday, November 6
Redwood City
Saturday, November 13
San Mateo
Weekly, Thursday-Saturday

December
South San Francisco Saturday, December 4
Daly City
Saturday, December 11
San Mateo
Weekly, Thursday-Saturday

Make an appointment at smchealth.org/hhw today.

Marine Flare Collection Event, Saturday, November 2nd

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San Mateo County Environmental Health Services will be hosting a one-day marine flare collection event on Saturday, November 2nd for recreational boaters who berth a boat or live in San Mateo County. 

Locations & Time
 Pillar Point Harbor 8 a.m. – 1 p.m. 
1 Johnson Pier, Half Moon Bay, CA 94019 

Oyster Point Marina, 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. 
95 Harbor Master Road, South San Francisco, CA 94080 

How to Prepare
Step 1: Inventory Your Flares
Inventory the number of flares you have. If you have damaged, decayed, unusual, expired, very old, or large flares, contact San Mateo County by phone or email below for options.

Step 2: Make an Appointment
For more information and to schedule an appointment, contact Wesley Won at 
(650) 655-6217 or wwon@smcgov.org. If you reach the voicemail, please leave your name, address, phone, email, and number of flares you’d like to dispose of. You will receive a call back confirming your appointment. 

Step 3: Day of Your Appointment
Transport flares safely by keeping them in original packaging, and protecting flares from movement during transportation to the collection event.

FAQ 

Do I have to make an appointment? 
Yes, an appointment is required. To schedule an appointment, contact Wesley Won at (650) 655-6217 or email wwon@smcgov.org.  

Is there a fee to dispose of my flares? 
No.

Who can participate in the event?
This event is restricted to recreational boaters who berth a boat or live in San Mateo County. No flares will be accepted from businesses or organizations.

What type of flares will you accept?
We will accept handheld, parachute, aerial, and handgun flares. No military-type devices or flares from commercial craft, businesses, or organizations. 

Is there a limit to how many marine flares I can bring?
There is no limit. 

Will this collection event accept any other household hazardous waste?
No other household hazardous waste such as paint, batteries, and oil will be accepted at this event. To make an appointment to safely manage your household hazardous waste, please call (650) 372-6200 or visit smchealth.org/hhw

Who should I contact for more information?
Please call Wesley Won at (650) 655-6217 or email wwon@smcgov.org. 

Marine signal devices are considered explosives and therefore difficult to dispose of.
San Mateo County Environmental Health Services’ Household Hazardous Waste Program is conducting this event with funding from CalRecycle. The event is a pilot program intended to help develop future collection opportunities for boaters to properly dispose of their marine flares.