FAQs - Recology San Mateo County
California Cont.



Find the answers to some of our most commonly asked questions by selecting a category below.

If you’re unable to locate an answer, contact us and we’ll be happy to help.



No. Many food packaging companies label their bio-based cups or eating utensils as “biodegradable,” but in reality they are neither compostable nor recyclable. These products are blends of bio-based resins and petro resins and, sadly, go to landfill.

Recology San Mateo County accepts napkins, paper towels, soiled paper plates, paper cups, and pizza boxes. Recology also accepts waxed cardboard (such as produce boxes), and wet or soiled paper and cardboard. Clean and dry paper, as well as wax milk and juice cartons, should be placed in the recycling.

If you’re a new resident of San Mateo County, or you’ve lost or damaged your kitchen pail for compost material, contact Recology San Mateo County for a replacement. Kitchen pails are for in-home use only, so we request that you don’t set your kitchen pail out for service. Recology’s trucks are not equipped to lift and empty the pails.

Recology San Mateo County strongly encourages you to give composting a try. We’ll even give you a kitchen pail and signage to help you get in the swing of it! San Mateo County residents have told us that composting becomes easy after the first week. From experience, they recommend bagging or wrapping food scraps in newspaper to slow down the decomposition and reduce odor.

Composting is a simple habit with many environmental benefits. If you throw compost scraps in the garbage,
the waste is sent to the landfill, where it decomposes and releases methane gas into the atmosphere, which is
23 times more potent than carbon dioxide and is directly attributed to climate change.

If you place kitchen and garden scraps in the green cart instead, the materials will be composted, which will actually help capture carbon in the soil and reverse some of the effects of climate change. Composting is nature’s way of recycling organic waste into a new soil amendment rich in nutrients that can be used for organic farming, vineyards, and highway erosion and control projects.

Residents are also enthusiastic about composting because they can usually decrease their garbage cart size
and thus, their bill. And, they love picking up the finished compost for their gardens at Recology San Mateo’s
yearly Compost Giveaway events. Going green can add some more green to your wallet and garden!

Yes! Compostable bags are acceptable in the compost collection program, but please make sure that your local Recology will accept them.

Compostable bags must meet the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) standards. These bags can be found at Costco, Whole Foods, Mollie Stones, Safeway, CVS and Walgreens, among other stores. Find a full list of approved bags on the Biodegradable Products Institute’s website.

Of course, you don’t have to use compostable bags. You can continue to use newspaper, paper bags or paper towels to line your pails and collect food scraps.

Once you’ve removed all the tinsel, lights, decorations and stands from your holiday tree, leave the
tree next to the green compost cart, and Recology will pick it up for you between December 26 and
January 31.

Please make sure trees are 8 feet and under. If it’s taller than 8 feet, cut the tree into lengths of 8
feet or less.





The shortest answer is that not all materials have an end-market. Remember that recycling is driven by economics – supply and demand. If there is demand by manufacturers for certain products, we will certainly make sure those materials can be used again. However, we’re always looking for solutions for hard-to-recycle items, such as plastic bags and film plastic.

Residential customers with extra recycling may set it out it in a cardboard box or paper bag with their recycle cart. Cardboard must be broken down to a manageable size no greater than 2’x2’x2’. Additional collection charges may apply for material that does not fit into your cart with the lid fully closed. Contact us to change the size of your Recology cart.

Yes, feel free to leave the lids on bottles when recycling them. Once sent to the appropriate recycling vendors, the different plastics are separated using advanced machinery.

      • Purchase products in bulk, or that are wrapped with minimal and recyclable packaging.
      • Reduce the amount of paper mail you receive. Sign up for digital billing and opt out of paper marketing material.
      • Reduce material going to our landfills by sorting properly and buying consciously.

Yes; or you can wipe containers with a soiled paper towel or napkin. Please empty all food residue and liquids from your food containers, cans, bottles, and jars before tossing them in your recycling container. For example, if there is a small amount of ketchup remaining in the bottle, give it a quick rinse to ensure you don’t contaminate other recycled paper or plastic products. To conserve water, rinse the containers with sink water after you’ve washed your dishes.


Yes, garbage in an overstuffed container will not loosen or fall into the truck when overturned. Compacting garbage too tightly into your container may also cause it to surpass its weight limit. Ordinary garbage produced by daily living will generally be within the container weight limitations.

Depending on the Recology company, you may need to call in advance of your collection day before our drivers can pick up extra bags of trash that do not fit in your carts. In some areas, there are programs, such as bulky item collections or extra bag tags, that may be available to you. Please visit your local Recology company to verify services for extra material.

Styrofoam is made with petroleum, a non-sustainable and heavily polluting resource. Avoid using or buying products made of Styrofoam if you can, but if you must, there are a few alternatives. Styrofoam peanuts can be dropped off at most shipping and mail houses, such as UPS and Mail Boxes.

Call to see if you can drop them off for reuse, or check Recology’s Hard to Recycle page for more sources. Green
Citizen in Burlingame recycles Styrofoam by volume. The fee is $5.00 per 33 gallon garbage bag. They will also take
packing peanuts and other packaging materials at no charge. Some local art organizations may reuse large pieces for art projects.


For information on where you can bring your paint, cleaning products and other hazardous chemicals, visit Recology’s Hazardous Waste page. You can also visit www.recyclestuff.org, the San Mateo County Health Department, or call (650) 363-4718.

Several communities within the SBWMA service area now have a Door to Door Hazardous Household Waste program offered at no extra charge. Visit RethinkWaste for more information.

Motor oils and filters are accepted curbside for residential customers. Recology will provide you with up to five one-gallon plastic jugs for used motor oil and up to five zippered plastic bags for used oil filters if you contact us. Simply leave the filled jugs and bags beside your blue recycle cart when you put it out for service and your driver will pick it up.

Residential and multi-family accounts are both eligible for Recology’s battery and cell phone recycling programs. Tape the ends of the batteries to prevent leakage or combustion. Tape battery buttons to a piece of paper. Residential customers should place the batteries or cell phones in a clear plastic bag. Place the sealed plastic bag on the lid on top of your BLACK garbage cart. Multi-family dwelling property managers may contact us to order a battery and cell phone collection bucket for tenants. Once the bucket is full, Recology will arrange to empty it.

Yes, medications need to be disposed of responsibly to avoid harm to other people and the environment. You absolutely should not throw old medications in the garbage, flush them down the toilet, or pour them down the sink. Trace amounts of drug residues have been found in the soil and in water sheds that provide our drinking water.

Visit Recology’s Household Hazardous Waste page to view a list of police station drop-off locations and to learn more on how to properly dispose of old medications.


You don’t. You take them back next time you go to the dry cleaners. That’s reuse which is even better than recycling. Please do not put wire or plastic hangers in your blue recycling bin; hangers jam equipment at the recycling plant. Recycling bins are for bottles, cans, paper, cardboard, and hard plastics, such as plastic cups and molded plastic packaging.


The law prohibits the theft of recyclables. Anyone caught unlawfully removing these materials from a recycling container may be prosecuted and is subject to a fine of up to $5000. The revenue earned from recyclables helps off-set the costs of all of Recology San Mateo County’s collection programs. Revenue lost through poaching can lead to increased rates in the long-term.

Limiting access to carts is the best way to prevent recycling theft and contamination. You may set out your carts or bins the morning of your pickup. Residential customers should set out carts by 6am. Commercial customers should set out carts and bins by 4:00am.

Recology also offers residential backyard and commercial inside service, as well as locking carts and bins. Contact us to inquire about pricing.

If you see someone taking your recyclables, obtain the time of the theft, description of the person, direction they were heading and vehicle description (if there was one), and report the theft to the non-emergency Police dispatch office in your city. For your safety, do not confront scavengers.

Atherton Police Department
(650) 688-6500

Belmont Police Department
(650) 595-7400

Burlingame Police Department
(650) 777-4100

East Palo Alto Police Department
(650) 853-3160

Foster City Police Department
(650) 286-3300

Hillsborough Police Department
(650) 375-7470

Menlo Park Police Department
(650) 330-6317

Redwood City Police Department
(650) 780-7100

San Carlos Police Department
(650) 802-4277

San Mateo Police Department
(650) 522-7700

San Mateo County Sheriff’s
(650) 363-4911

Has your side of the street been serviced? If not, then the driver is probably still in the neighborhood and hasn’t arrived on your street yet. If your driver has serviced your neighbor’s carts, check for a few things that may have prevented the driver from servicing yours:

  • Did you set your cart out by 6am? This is when Recology drivers start working in residential areas.
  • Did your driver leave you a note indicating contamination? Incorrect materials in your cart can affect your collection and need to be removed before a driver can service them.

Recology is happy to send a driver back to empty your cart! Contact us.

The best deterrent is to keep your carts indoors where the raccoons can’t get to them. For the times your carts are left outside, try covering garbage and compostable materials, especially anything with an exceptionally strong smell, with paper bags or newspaper after placing it in the cart.

Try any of following to keep raccoons at bay:

  • You can repel raccoons with cayenne pepper, which is found at just about any grocery store.
    Raccoons have a highly sensitive sense of smell and strongly dislike the scent – they will usually
    avoid it as much as possible. Sprinkle ground cayenne pepper on top of or around your cart.

  • You can also make a homemade liquid repellent. Boil a quart of water, 1/3 cup of cayenne pepper,
    and a diced jalapeno pepper for about 20 minutes. Cool and strain, then pour the mixture into an
    empty spray bottle and spray around your cart.

  • Commercial organic raccoon repellent products are available for purchase at some pet stores and
    online. Sprinkle the granules around your carts to keep them away.

  • Sprinkle the top of your carts with baby powder, or even sand. Raccoons don’t like the feel of dust
    on their paws and might avoid the area if they detect any around.

  • Try using motion sensors that activate lights to scare them off.

Raccoons are intelligent animals. If they’re unsuccessful at the first attempts to get food at a particular location, they will most likely stay away and look for other sources. Remember to please be careful with raccoons. They can be dangerous if provoked and often carry diseases. Never approach one for any reason. Harming or trapping a raccoon is illegal.

Recology San Mateo County’s Special Handling Collection Service provides a free service to residents who are
physically unable to set their carts curbside or roadside for collection. Customers that need the assistance and
who do not have someone else in the household that can set carts out for service, are asked to provide a letter of
verification from a physician, a copy of their DMV driver’s license with a handicap status, or a copy of the DMV
handicap placard paperwork. Download an application or contact us and we will send one out to you.

Recology San Mateo County also offers Backyard Collection Service for any resident who does not wish to bring
their carts out for service. Recology will make arrangements to service the carts from a mutually designated area
for an additional fee, dependent upon the distance and elevation from the curb, and if the driver needs to unlock
any doors.

Please contact us at (650) 595-3900 to learn more.

Pick up times may vary from week to week depending on drivers, traffic, or route changes, so it’s important to put your carts out for collection the night before to prevent missed pickups.

Rain, wind, and snow might delay us by a few hours, depending on the severity. If extreme weather conditions make it unsafe for our drivers to service your bins, we will collect materials on the first day that regular service resumes.

Place your bins curbside in the street, with the wheels against the curb and the lid pointed toward the street. If you live on a street without a curb you can place them roadside. Place your bins about 2-3 feet apart, all facing the same direction. This helps out our drivers to ensure quick and safe service.

For those households with large families or who regularly recycle more than their bins allow, please give us a call to increase your service. Although additional collection charges may apply, you can set your extra recyclables next to your bins in paper bags or cardboard boxes and they will be removed on your regular recycling day.

Although we do not provide additional residential bins, you may schedule a debris box drop-off/pick-up with your Recology company up for large cleanups. (Debris box information can be found under the All Services tab.)



You can mail in a check with your bill or pay online by making a one time payment. You can even set up automated billing through our website to receive bills via e-mail. Payments can also be dropped off at Recology San Mateo County’s office at 225 Shoreway Road in San Carlos. Recology’s office hours are 8am to 5pm, Monday through Friday (except holidays).

Residents who generate minimal garbage, or landfill bound materials be able to save money by reducing their garbage service level. Call your Recology company to see how they can “right size” your service based on material type and volume.

Our Waste Zero Teams are here for you! Visit your local Recology to connect with a Waste Zero Specialist who will train your staff or tenants, provide signage and resources, and place recycling containers for convenience.

You can lower your bill by decreasing your garbage cart size. In most cases, this is done hand-in-hand
with increasing recycling or adding composting service. Protecting the environment is also good for
your pocketbook!