Safe Steps for a Successful Household Hazardous Waste Drop-Off Experience

If you have a variety of unwanted toxic items at home, the safest way to dispose of them is at a County Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) event.

Before you load up the car and make an appointment, read on for tips to make your experience a safe and successful one.

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Reduce Hazardous Waste in Your Life

reducinghhwEach time you make an appointment to drop-off household hazardous waste through San Mateo County’s program you are protecting the environment. However, we all recognize it can be a burden to sort and shuffle all that waste into your car, make an appointment, and then drive to get rid of it! But what if we told you there was a way to reduce the amount of drop-off trips while also protecting the environment? Good news, there is a way!

If you reduce the amount of hazardous materials you purchase, the less waste you accumulate, and the less trips you have to make! Not only does it make your life more convenient, it’s safer, may save some cash, and does even more to save the environment.

Today there are so many less-toxic alternatives to replace products that end up as hazardous waste. Here are some to consider….

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Dropping off Your Household Hazardous Waste is as Easy as 1-2-3!

San Mateo County's Household Hazardous Waste Program is a "full-service" program.

San Mateo County’s Household Hazardous Waste Program is a “full-service” program.

San Mateo County has offered a Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) Program for over 24 years for residents to drop-off a variety of HHW such as cleaning chemicals, batteries, paint, fluorescent lights, propane tanks and more.

The program is free to residents and continues to be a popular way to get rid of unwanted toxic waste.

Next time you use the program – whether it is at our permanent facility in San Mateo or one of our temporary events in Daly City, La Honda, Menlo Park, Pacifica, Portola Valley, or South San Francisco – here are some quick tips to help you help us make the program a success for everyone.

  1. Make an appointment. You can do so online at or by calling (650) 363-4718, select option 3.
  2. Gather your waste in a sturdy box. Don’t mix waste and make sure they are in their original containers. Check our website for a list of accepted waste. The limit per appointment is 10 gallons or 50 pounds.
  3. Arrive at your designated time. The HHW program is “full-service” so stay in your vehicle while we take the waste directly from your car. Just make sure to place it all in an easily accessible location for staff to reach.

And that’s it!

Visit for more information on how to make an appointment and what wastes are accepted.

Used Motor Oil and Oil Filters – Linked for Life

Crushed oil filters on their way for recycling.

Crushed oil filters on their way for recycling.

What happens when a used oil filter is not properly disposed of? An oil filter may contain up to 10 ounces of used motor oil trapped inside, just waiting to ooze out and contaminate our streams, neighborhood streets and the local landfill. Once oil contaminates a landfill, over time it can gradually reach underground water sources. The California Department of Resources Recycling & Recovery (CalRecycle) estimates there are at least two million gallons of motor oil lost when filters are not properly recycled at a used motor oil and filter collection center.
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How to Recycle Mercury Thermostats

Thermostats come in many forms. Ones with dials or a lever or made before 2006 likely contain mercury.

Thermostats with dials, a lever or made before 2006 likely contain mercury.

Do you have an old thermostat at home with a dial or a lever that looks like the one pictured on the left? Then most likely you have a thermostat that contains mercury. Many thermostats manufactured before 2006 contain mercury. This thermostat is perfectly safe to use, as the mercury is usually contained in a glass tube. But if you decide to change your thermostat to a new digital or programmable model, disposing of the old thermostat should be done safely.

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How to Dispose of Fluorescent Lights

Fluorescent lights come in all shapes and sizes. Compact fluorescent lights (CFL) are the smallest ones.

Fluorescent lights come in all shapes and sizes. Compact fluorescent lights (CFL) are the smallest ones.

Fluorescent lights may save you money on your electric bill, but once they burn out, you can’t toss them in the trash because the mercury contained in them is toxic, making burned-out fluorescent lights hazardous waste!

Fluorescent lights come in a variety of shapes and sizes, the most popular being tube-shaped and the compact “curly” style. The tube-shape lights have been in use for many years, mostly in garages and commercial buildings. Compact fluorescent lights (CFL’s) became a more recently popular product to replace the use of common incandescent lights. Many utility companies offered deep discounts to buy CFL’s because, according to Energy Star, they use about 70-90% less energy than traditional incandescent lights and last 10 to 25 times longer. But now the problems associated with disposal of these bulbs is causing the industry to develop new options. Continue reading

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. Continue reading