In San Mateo County, our household trash and recycling is handled by Recology. While our blue recycling bins enable us to properly dispose of the bulk of our recyclable trash, there are a number of other items that can be recycled using other means. This page is intended to help those looking to minimize what they put into the waste stream find places to recycle these other items. Note that many of these items can be dropped off at Recology’s Shoreway Environmental Center on Shoreway Road just north of the San Carlos airport.
If you have additional suggestions, or find that any of mine are no longer valid, please submit a comment and I will update the page accordingly.
The following items can go into your blue cart. Note that these items must be clean and well-separated: remove paper labels from cans, for instance, and separate lids from jar and bottle tops
- Glass bottles and jars
- Plastic containers with the recycling symbol (#1-#7). No black plastic, though.
- Household metals (cans, mostly)
- Clean paper products (shredded paper should be put into a paper bag before placing it in your blue bin)
In addition, used motor oil and filters, in a clear screw-top container that is then placed within a clear zip-top bag, can be set next to the blue cart.
This bin is used for trash, but used household batteries (not car batteries) and cell phones can be sealed in a clear plastic bag and placed on top of the black cart for recycling.
I put mine into a clear food storage bag that I put on top of my black trash cart. Alternatively I could have taken them to the Shoreway Environmental Center. Hassett Hardware (in Woodside Plaza) also takes them, I’m told.
Clothing and Household Items
In Redwood City, I usually take wearable clothing and working household items to Savers (downtown, on Main Street — although the drop-off is in the back, on Walnut Street). You might prefer The Salvation Army or perhaps Goodwill Industries (there is a Goodwill drop-off in the Chavez Supermarket parking lot on El Camino Real at Fifth Avenue). While the St. Vincent de Paul Society shop on El Camino Real below Woodside Road has closed, the nearby St. Francis Center accepts donations of new and gently used clothing (and other items; see their website) at their main office (151 Buckingham Avenue, Redwood City) during office hours.
Goodwill and Savers (probably) will take fabrics that are not wearable as fabrics to be recycled into stuffing and such. Label these as “ragged fabrics.”
Old iPhones (and iPads, Macs, etc.) can be sent back to Apple (or any Apple Store); newer phones in good shape can often be traded in for credit. Cell phones of any brand (including Apple’s) can either be dropped into the appropriate bin just inside the door at Best Buy in San Carlos, or can be put into a clear bag and placed on the lid of your black trash bin.
Electronics, Household Electrics and Cables
These can go to the Shoreway Environmental Center, or can be donated to an electronics drive at a local school, church, or other non-profit. If you are getting rid of stuff with hard drives that may contain sensitive information (and what information isn’t sensitive these days?), do what you can to securely erase those drives prior to recycling. And consider checking out Green Citizen. For a small fee, they’ll destroy any data on any hard drives you give them (those drives can be inside old computers) — and they’ll do the same for cell phones. Their drop off recycling center is in Burlingame, at 1831 Bayshore Highway. Note that in addition to wiping hard drives, they also take other types of electrical and electronic items — some for a fee, and some free. Check their web page for more information.
Lion’s Club International has a great eyeglasses recycling program. In the past I’ve seen their cardboard bins in various places. Or, many opticians will take back eyeglasses for recycling. For instance, I understand that LensCrafters on El Camino Real in Menlo Park will take them.
Fluorescent Bulbs, LED Bulbs
Take LED and fluorescent bulbs to the Shoreway Environmental Center. Shoreway takes not only the long fluorescent tubes (household only, up to 6 tubes, must be less than 6 feet), but also compact fluorescents (CFLs)
Household Hazardous Waste (cooking oil, paint, used motor antifreeze, used motor oil and filters)
With some limits, the Shoreway Environmental Center takes this stuff, too. Be sure to check their list of acceptable items (click the plus sign next to “Public Recycling Center is Open” on this page for any limits) before taking it in. If you have a lot, or if what you have doesn’t meet their requirements, the county has a couple of drop-off locations for which you can make an appointment: see their website here. I’ve done that in the past, when I had a lot of paint and gardening chemicals to dispose of, and it proved to be very convenient.
Medications (both prescription and non-prescription)
The Shoreway Environmental Center has a secure bin into which you can deposit both prescription and non-prescription medications. Alternatively, you can take them to CVS in Sequoia Station (at the rear of the store, just to the right of the pharmacy), Safeway in Sequoia Station (also at the rear of the store, just to the right of the pharmacy), the Redwood City police station (on Maple Street on the Bay side of Highway 101), to the Sheriff’s office (in the 400 County Center building), or to Redwood City’s Kaiser Medical facility.
The county maintains a list of county facilities with drop-off sites here.
These cannot be placed in your blue bin: they jam up the machinery used to sort our mixed recyclables. In the past I’ve taken them to various grocery stores, but most no longer accept them. Various readers have written in saying that the following places still accept them, though:
- Chavez Supermarket, on Fifth Avenue at El Camino Real (outside the entry door; see photograph at right)
- Safeway, at 850 Woodside Road
- Target, at 2485 El Camino Real (the recycling bin is at the service desk)
- Home Depot, at 1125 Old County Rd. (the recycling bin is located at the main entrance, on the right side)
Printer Ink Cartridges
Best Buy (in San Carlos) has a nice drop-off bin for these just inside the door.
We have a household shredder which we use for day-to-day stuff; I put the shredded remains into a recyclable paper bag, and then put that bag into my blue bin. If you have a lot, or you don’t have your own shredder, take your documents to your local UPS store, where they charge per pound to shred them.
The Shoreway Environmental Center has a secure bin where sealed containers of sharps can be dropped off.
These can be tricky. Some can be recycled with other small electronic items, I believe, but check with the manufacturer first: many have to be sent back to where they were made. In the past I’ve mailed them back to the manufacturer, for free: I called them and they emailed me a postage-paid mailing label.
Styrofoam can be dropped off for free at Recology’s San Francisco Transfer Station (501 Tunnel Avenue, in Brisbane). You can alternatively take EPS #6 styrofoam (the most common kind) to Green Citizen in Burlingame. Green Citizen charges $5 for as much as you can fit into a 30-gallon bag (they provide the bag). The styrofoam must be clean, but can be of any shape.
Styrofoam packing peanuts can often be taken to your local UPS or FedEx store; they can often re-use them. Some stores will also take specialty styrofoam shipping containers (for wine, for instance). Ask at your local store.
I accumulate them (we get them whenever we take clothing in to be dry cleaned) and take the accumulated stack to Broadway Cleaners (on Main Street, behind Harry’s Hofbrau).