Coastal Cleanup Day, Saturday, September 21st


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Calling All Volunteers!

Do you ever see litter on the road and want to do something about it? Now’s your chance! Join 5,000+ volunteers in San Mateo County on Saturday, September 21st from 9 a.m. to Noon and help stop litter on our streets from becoming ocean pollution on Coastal Cleanup Day.

Coastal Cleanup Day is an annual waterway and land cleanup that is celebrating its 35th birthday as the largest cleanup event in the State!

Why You Should Volunteer:

• Improve your community by cleaning up and protecting the environment and wildlife.

• Build connections with different individuals and organizations participating.

• Make a difference and help remove commonly littered items such as cigarette butts, plastic bags, food wrappers, and bottles.

• There are over 40 cleanup locations that include beaches, creeks, waterways, parks, and neighborhoods throughout the County.

• Volunteers will receive a 20% off Sports Basement coupon (while supplies last).

• A perfect event to attend with your family, friends, or co-workers.

• All volunteers who bring a reusable bucket, gloves, mug, or water bottle get a stainless steel reusable straw and cleaner! (While supplies last)

• Select Cleanup sites are participating in Pacific Beach Coalition’s Butt Blitz so that all of the toxic, plastic, smelly cigarette butts you pick up will be recycled.  

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 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.


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  

Is there a fee to dispose of my flares? 

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

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

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. 

Too Good to Waste

Reduce Household Hazardous Waste by Sharing Leftover Unwanted Products 


Have you ever found yourself in the middle of home improvement or cleaning only to realize you are missing one product to complete the job? Instead of racing to the store to purchase an item you may never use again and take up valuable storage space after your project is complete, consider these more sustainable solutions that are better for your wallet and the planet!

1. Ask a neighbor. You’d be surprised that what you need lives in the garage or under the sink next door waiting to be put to good use. If you don’t interact with your neighbors often, consider joining Nextdoor. Nextdoor is a private social media network for your neighborhood that can be downloaded as a mobile app or accessed by logging in on your computer. You’ll often see residents on Nextdoor posting household products for free or looking to exchange.

2. Free Product Give Away Program. Many products collected at San Mateo County’s Household Hazardous Waste collection events are still in good condition. Products include but are not limited to gardening, hobby and craft, automotive care, household cleaners and care products. The Program redistributes these items for free, but remember, please only take what you need. For location and more information, visit


Benefits of Sharing Unwanted Products
• Saves money.
• Saves a trip to the store.
• Reduces resources and energy used in the production and disposal of goods.
• Reduces Household Hazardous Waste.
• Reduces risk of pollution in the environment.
• Keeps your family and pets safe from unwanted chemicals piling up in the
garage or under the kitchen sink.

School Share Tables Save Food, Feed Children

A simple solution to reduce food waste and address child hunger

In 2018, San Mateo County Environmental Health Services started the Food Share Table Program and in only a year we’ve come a long way!

To date we’ve partnered with Rethink Waste, and the Office of Sustainability to successfully introduce a program that teaches students and school staff how to safely share food during meal time at 11 schools in the County. That’s approximately 5,000 students now saving an average of 16,000 pieces of food per school during the school year with a share table in place.

The Program is helping to divert hundreds of tons of food from being thrown in our landfills daily, which prevents methane generation, a greenhouse gas emission causing climate change.

The amazing part is, 16,000 pieces of food previously feeding the landfill are
now providing an extra serving of edible food to elementary school students whose only meal of the day may be in the school cafeteria.

How Does the Program Work?

Environmental Health Services train teachers and school employees on how to share food safely using a Share Table Guide developed by food safety staff and provide schools with color code food grade bins. They are also educated on how to safely donate surplus food to other organizations at the end of the lunch period.

Students get an overview of how the table works and a game is played to help teach them what food goes where and why the share table is important. During lunch, students can place food in and take food out of the colorful share table bins which are separated by hot food, cold food, packaged shelf stable food, and utensils and condiments.

Only unopened, unbitten cafeteria food is allowed on the table, no food from home is allowed. School staff monitor the table and manage the remaining food according to food safety rules.

How Can I Support Starting a Share Table at My Child’s School?

Establishing a share table at your child’s school is a team effort. It requires the support of the school district, the principal, school staff, and Environmental Health Services to make it a success and ensure food safety is maintained. If you would like to see a share table at your child’s school, please contact us at (650) 372-6252, and visit for more information.

Happy Tales of Healthy Nails


Visit a Certified Healthy Nail Salon

The Healthy Nail Salon Program is proudly celebrating five years of raising the health standards of the nail salon experience in San Mateo County. San Mateo County Environmental Health Services staff is continuing a movement to certify and educate
select salon owners and employees about improving indoor air quality in salons and making a fuss about unhealthy fumes in the air. Health and happiness in the salon isn’t just about sanitation, and no pedicure is worth the poison.

The Program addresses years of women compromising their health by having to smell that signature combination of chemical cocktails in the salon in order get that summer pedicure or nail service for a special event.

After five years, the County has certified 21 salons that are committed to improved ventilation by opening windows and doors, using a ventilation unit that filters toxic acrylic dust and fumes from the air, and by allowing County staff to audit the salon to ensure only the least toxic nail polish, removers, and acrylic liquids and powders are used on customers.

And it’s not just San Mateo County’s 21 salons that are committing to a healthier environment, there are over 150 salons in our neighboring counties of Santa Clara and San Francisco that are also making the commitment and becoming certified by government staff.

The best part is select certified San Mateo County salon owners are offering $5 certificates for any customer who wants to love their lungs and their nails by selecting a healthy nail salon service. Simply show the certificate (listed above) to any of the salons with an asterisk to redeem, and refer to the certificate validation details.

Certificate Update: Lyna’s Beauty Salon in Menlo Park is no longer offering certificates, but is still a certified healthy salon.

Safe Sharps Disposal

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Sharpen Your Disposal Knowledge

Many people and pets use sharps to get the medicine they need to manage a variety of medical conditions. Sharps waste includes any device that penetrates the skin to deliver medications. Disposing of sharps waste safely at a collection bin helps protect people, our furry friends, and the environment.

• Place used sharps in a sealed, puncture proof container.
• No larger than 1 gallon in size.
• Securely seal the container.
• Repurposed containers must be taped, puncture proof, and labeled “sharps.”
• Bring sealed sharps container to the drop-off bin.
• Never put loose sharps into the bins.

sharps no backgroundCan’t drop-off your sharps? There are several sharps mail-back options and free container programs that may be available to you depending on what type of medication you use. To find out more information about safe sharps disposal visit

Have more than just sharps to dispose of? Drop-off unwanted or expired medicine at over 50 convenient kiosks in San Mateo County. For a list of locations, or to find out about mail-back package options for disabled or home bound residents, visit

San Mateo County’s Beach Monitoring Program

Allison Fang beach samplingKeeping You Safe One Week at a Time

San Mateo is lucky to be home to a variety of beautiful beaches and creeks, along both the Bayside and the Pacific Ocean, from the San Pedro Creek watershed emptying to Linda Mar Beach in the north, to Gazos Creek emptying into Gazos Beach in the south. We’re even world-famous with Maverick’s Surf Contest held (mostly) offshore from
Pillar Point Harbor.

While our beaches are a great place to swim, surf or just splash in the foam, they’re also a place where you could become sick through water contact if bacteria, like E. coli, are elevated and exceed State and Federal standards.

You can stay safe and enjoy the beaches, avoiding skin rashes or infections, headache, and flu-like symptoms, by paying attention to warning signs that San Mateo County Environmental Health Services post to alert you to avoid water contact at beaches that have exceeded bacteria standards.

We have your back to keep your health on track, protecting locals and visitors alike. Each week a combination of County staff and dedicated, trained volunteers sample the water at 40 swimming/surfing beaches and creek mouths around the County. Water is analyzed for various bacteria, and if bacteria levels are elevated, signs are posted, and the web page is updated to advise you to avoid any water contact.

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Samples are collected every Monday morning, with results posted on by Wednesday each week. Signs are also posted at access points to monitored beaches and creeks mouths. However, regardless of our postings, you should be cautious by following these general rules:

• Avoid swimming in creek water in general, but especially when the creek is not flowing.
• Avoid ocean or creek water contact during and for three days following a rainfall.
• Don’t swim in ocean water within 100 feet of a creek      mouth entering the ocean.
• Avoid swimming in water that is frothy/foamy, off-colored (brown, reddish or
cloudy), or has an offensive odor.

Stay updated on when it’s safe to swim or surf by signing up for our beach water quality updates at

Interested in helping keep our surfers and swimmers safe?
Join the volunteer beach sampling team by contacting
Water Program Supervisor, Greg Smith at

School Share Tables

Saving Food and Feeding Children

Did you know that 62.5 million tons of food is wasted each year, while
42.2 million people in the United States don’t have enough food to eat? Even right here in the heart of the San Francisco Bay Area, one of the most affluent places to live, there are parents struggling to put food on the table for their kids. In response, San Mateo County Environmental Health Services started the Food Share Table Program with a goal of no hungry kids at school and to divert food from ending up in landfills
emitting methane, a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change.

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Sharing and caring is evident through a Program where students are taught to only take food they plan to eat and share any unwanted, uneaten food with others. This helps ensure everyone has access to enough food to lead a healthy and active lifestyle, and protect the environment by reducing food waste.

“Composting food should be Plan B. We need to start looking further upstream and divert edible food from even ending up in the trash, especially when we hear about how many families are struggling to put meals on the dinner table daily,” says Allison Milch, Pollution Prevention Specialist and coordinator of the Food Share Table Program in the

If you visit an elementary school in South San Francisco and Redwood City’s school district, you’ll see the success of the share tables with food continuously going in and out of color coded bins, and signage reminding everyone that the share table station is the first stop before heading to the trash bins when lunch is over.banana-1504956_1920

To date, nine schools (about 4,500 students) have incorporated the Program into their mealtime, with an average of about 73 pieces of food prevented from being landfilled daily at each school.

“The share table has been a great success. Ms. Havr (the cafeteria manager) has done a great job setting up a protocol and the noon supervisors are following the plan well. Many students are being fed with nutritious food, quite a few augmenting what they may lack from home and much less food is wasted each day. Thank you all for your support in getting this going,” says Cregg Ramich, Buri Buri Elementary School’s Principal in South San Francisco.Principal Cregg and Lisa Haver with Student

While the launch of the Program is a huge milestone, there are still many more schools out there wasting edible and nutritious food. If you are a parent, teacher, or principal, and want to start a share table at your school, please reach out to San Mateo County Environmental Health Services at (650) 372-6252 or visit for more information.

A Little Battery, A Lot of Harm



Improper battery recycling poses a huge risk to employees and the community

Around 8:30 p.m. on September 7, 2016, employees at the Shoreway Environmental Center’s materials recovery facility (MRF) in San Carlos had just started processing materials after a meal break when they noticed something was terribly wrong.

A small fire had started in one of the automated screens that mechanically separates mixed paper from other recyclables. The fire quickly spread deeper into the facility as materials continued to be conveyed.

“Staff sprang into action and began extinguishing the fires they could access,” said Dwight Herring, General Manager of South Bay Recycling who operates the RethinkWaste*-owned facility. “It was emanating thick, acrid black smoke and the supervisor at the time made the call to evacuate.”

While there were thankfully no injuries, the building interior and processing equipment suffered extensive fire, smoke and water damage — damage significant enough to suspend the facility’s ability to process recyclable materials. After examining the site, fire investigators strongly suspected the ignition source was likely a lithium-ion battery.

It was three months before the MRF could start processing materials again, and an entire year before the building and damaged equipment were fully restored. During this time, some employees were temporarily laid-off while repairs were made.

After the repairs were finished, the facility’s insurance coverage cost increased significantly, ultimately impacting user rates. “Just because the facility shut down doesn’t mean the material flow stopped. We had to make arrangements to have third party haulers come in and remove that material,” Herring said.

Since the fire, the facility has increased staff fire safety training and installed additional fire suppression equipment throughout the MRF, including improved sprinkler systems and an automatic plant-wide system shutdown in the event of fire. But those safety measures can only do so much.

What the Shoreway facility and all haulers in San Mateo County really need is for residents to make sure batteries don’t get put into their recyclables or trash. “When you’re discarding a battery, and you’re discarding it inappropriately — whether it’s the black cart or the blue cart — you’re basically putting a bomb in that container. It takes very little damage to a lithium-ion battery for it to explode,” he said. “You’re literally putting an incendiary device into a pile of paper.”

Recycle your Batteries Right, contact your local waste hauler for recycling options, or visit


Flaws of Single-Use Straws

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You spend minutes sipping through a straw but it can end up spending decades in the ocean because its plastic, and doesn’t biodegrade. Instead, it lingers as litter for an animal to mistake as food, or even worse, get stuck inside a sea turtle’s nose (yes, this has happened). For years straws remain the 7th most picked up litter item during worldwide events like Coastal Cleanup Day, and no matter how hard we try, we just can’t get them all. While companies like Starbucks have made commitments to phase out plastic straws by 2020, what can we as straw sippers do to prevent straw pollution? You as one person can do a lot.

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Paper or plastic? Go with paper instead of plastic straws. They are a little more expensive, but you can feel good knowing the straw will biodegrade when you are done sipping on it.


Go with a reusable straw. Keep a reusable straw on hand for any cold beverage purchases you make along the way. Places like Amazon, Target, and more sell these at a reasonable price. Enter to win a nifty collapsible keychain straw by visiting


Go completely reusable. Purchase a reusable cold beverage container that comes with a reusable straw. This not only reduces straw litter, but single-use plastic consumption in general. Or, if straws aren’t a sipping staple for you, skip them entirely.