What is Household Hazardous Waste, and how do I get rid of it safely?

Household Hazardous Waste is any toxic chemical or product you use at home

Household Hazardous Waste is any toxic chemical or product you use at home

While cleaning your basement, closets, bathroom and kitchen, you may come across some old and unwanted household chemicals and other things we refer to as “household hazardous waste” or HHW for short. This may include things like paint, weed killer, batteries, fluorescent lights, household cleaners like bleach and floor polish, and many other chemicals. Some bottles or containers may have product still inside that is unused or barely touched. So, what to do with this stuff that you don’t want in your home? Not a good idea to throw it in the garbage or dump it on the ground because that contaminates water and soil. Luckily for San Mateo County residents, there are several options to choose to help you manage your household chemicals safely.

The easiest option would be to make an appointment with San Mateo County’s HHW Program. You can bring a variety of hazardous waste Thursdays through Saturdays at the main drop off facility in San Mateo. We also conduct temporary drop off events in Daly City, Half Moon Bay, La Honda, Menlo Park, Pacifica, Portola Valley, Redwood City and South San Francisco. The locations are provided at the time you make the appointment. All waste collected is either reused, recycled, processed for energy recovery, or stabilized for proper disposal to achieve zero waste going to the landfill. We limit residents to 10 gallons of liquid or 50 pounds of a solid per appointment for safety reasons during transport.

If you have only a few items such as paint, household batteries and/or fluorescent lights, you can dispose of them by dropping them off at a local recycling facility. There are over two dozen locations where paint can be taken to be recycled. If you live in a single family home, you can most likely put batteries in a bag and on top of or inside your recycling bin on garbage day (please call your garbage company to verify). For fluorescent lights, there are eight locations that take back both fluorescent bulbs and tubes for recycling.

Lastly, for residents in Atherton, Belmont, Burlingame, East Palo Alto, Foster City, Hillsborough, Menlo Park, Redwood City, San Carlos, San Mateo, and Unincorporated San Mateo, you may contact At Your Door Special Collection for a free home pick up of HHW. Be sure to check the website on what’s accepted.

That’s HHW in a nutshell. Leave a comment if you have questions about the programs mentioned above and we’d be happy to help you find out how to dispose of your household toxics, or email us at pollutionprevention@smcgov.org.

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