Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) Program

Unloading vehicle at HHW Station

Overview

The City of Palo Alto provides environmentally safe and convenient hazardous waste disposal for residents and small businesses.

Americans generate 1.6 million tons of hazardous household products per year. The best way to reduce and prevent pollution from hazardous household products, protect the health of your family, and preserve the environment is to use less-toxic alternatives.

Related Information:

 

HHW Station

The HHW Station provides environmentally safe and convenient hazardous waste disposal for residents. We have a few new guidelines to protect against the spread of COVID-19. Please read the guidelines carefully to ensure you arrive prepared.

Hours

  • Every Saturday 9am to 11am
  • First Friday of each month 3pm to 5pm

Address

2501 Embarcadero Way, Palo Alto, CA 94303

Holiday Closures

  • Saturday November 27, 2021 for Thanksgiving
  • Saturday December 25, 2021 for Christmas
  • Saturday January 1, 2022 for New Year

Standard Guidelines

  • 15 gallons or 125 pounds of household hazardous waste per visit
  • Must be a Palo Alto Resident (driver’s license or vehicle registration)

New COVID-19 Guidelines

  • Place all HHW in your vehicle’s trunk and remove all other items (to avoid anything you want to keep from being taken by mistake). Do not place HHW in the interior of your vehicle or hand it to staff through your window.
  • Wear a mask. A cloth face covering is required.
  • Keep car windows closed. You may choose to keep your vehicle window closed. Have your proof of residency ready to show staff by holding it up to the driver side window.
  • Remain in your vehicle at all times

Directions

Take Embarcadero Road east towards the Palo Alto Baylands. As you come to the Palo Alto Golf Course entrance turn right onto Embarcadero Way. Continue on Embarcadero Way, the HHW Station will be at the end of the road on your left.

 Map to HHW Station

Related Information

HHW Station Accepted Items

The following items are accepted in the residential HHW Station (in containers no larger than 5 gallons).

  • Pesticides
  • Mercury wastes (thermometers, thermostats, switches)
  • Latex & Oil based paints
  • Medications (No controlled substances)
  • Gasoline, paint thinner or other fuels and solvents (in non-returnable container)
  • Fluorescent light bulbs, tubes and ballasts
  • Asbestos (wetted and double bagged in bags no larger than 3'x3'x3' - 2 bags maximum)
  • Road flares
  • Propane and butane cylinders (used for BBQs and camp stoves)
  • Helium gas cylinders (ex: party time tanks used for filling balloons) 
  • MAPP gas cylinders
  • Motor Oil (in non-returnable container)
  • Antifreeze (in non-returnable container)
  • Auto Batteries
  • Household Batteries (e.g., AAA, AA, C, D, 9-volt, hearing aid, camera) - Lithium and Lithium-ion batteries accepted
  • Electronics with embedded (not removable) batteries (examples: smart phones, tablets)
  • Electronic cigarettes / vape devices (tobacco only)
  • Cooking Oil and Grease (in non-returnable container)
  • Cleaners, bleach, pool chemicals
  • Household injection needles (must be in rigid container with a sealed lid)

 

Items Not Accepted

  • Electronic Waste
  • Large gas cylinders (over 5 gallons in size)
  • Cylinders containing gases other than propane, butane, helium, or MAPP gas 
  • Radioactive wastes
  • Infectious waste (containing body tissues or fluids)
  • Controlled substances
  • Explosive wastes
  • Marine flares
  • Fireworks - contact the Fire Department. Call (650) 329-2184.
  • Ammunition
  • Pressure treated wood

 

Physical Limitations At-Home Pick-Up

Home collection of household hazardous waste is a service available for residents with physical limitations.

Here are the steps to follow: 

 

HHW Reuse Zone

Shed with reusable items at the HHW Reuse Zone

The HHW Reuse Zone is a reuse program for gently used, good quality household products such as paint, cleaners and unused motor oil that are brought in to the HHW Station for disposal. All items in the HHW Reuse Zone have been screened by HHW Station staff.

Visitors are allowed to take up to five household products per visit. Residency in Palo Alto is not required to use the HHW Reuse Zone.

The HHW Reuse Zone is only open during HHW Station hours.

 

Small Business/Non-Profit Organizations

Very Small Quantity Generator Program (VSQG)

Businesses and non-profit organizations located in the communities of Palo Alto, East Palo Alto, Mountain View, Stanford, Los Altos and Los Altos Hills that generate less than 220 pounds of hazardous waste per month can participate in Palo Alto's Very Small Quantity Generator Program.

A registration and disposal fee is required based on the type and quantity of waste being disposed. Appointments are on Saturdays following the residential HHW drop-off hours. To register for an appointment call the City's hazardous waste contractor (Clean Harbors) at (800) 433-5060 or send an email request to VSQG@cleanharbors.com.

Hours

First Saturday of the month, by appointment only

Contact Us

2501 Embarcadero Way, Palo Alto, CA 94303

Voicemail: (800) 433-5060
Email: VSQG@cleanharbors.com

Directions

Take Embarcadero Road east towards the Palo Alto Baylands. As you come to the Palo Alto Golf Course entrance turn right onto Embarcadero Way. Continue on Embarcadero Way, the HHW Station will be at the end of the road on your left.

Map to HHW Station

Related Information

 

Transportation Requirements 

  • All waste containers should be properly secured in your vehicle to avoid falling over and spilling.
  • Any leaking containers should be properly contained. Leaking containers can be placed into an unbroken clean container and secured with a lid.
  • A plastic garbage bag can be used to keep odors contained during transportation to a drop off event.
  • Keep your vehicle clean by putting down plastic or cardboard to keep carpets or upholstery clean.
  • Limit 15 gallons or 125 pounds of household hazardous waste per visit. You may make more than one trip to the HHW collection event.

State Law prohibits the transportation of more than 15 gallons or 125 pounds of household hazardous waste without a State hazardous waste hauler permit (HSC 25218.5.1). The City will not accept more than 15 gallons or 125 pounds of HHW per visit. Residents that do not follow the State Law will be turned away. The law helps keep you and the roads safe of potential spills and chemical releases.

Less-Toxic Alternatives

The ultimate solution to the household hazardous waste problem is to reduce dependence on toxic/hazardous products and use them only when necessary. Disposing of these products, even through our program, should be viewed as a last resort. Use less toxic/hazardous alternatives whenever you can and only purchase those toxic/hazardous products in small quantities and use them to completion.

The following are a few tips to help you reduce the amount hazardous chemicals you have in your home and the amount of HHW you produce.

  • Do away with or limit the use of household products that contain hazardous chemicals. Instead of using a caustic drain cleaner use a metal snake instead. Instead of purchasing the large can of product purchase the smaller size. You will be more likely to use this can up more quickly and not have to store the chemical in the home for long periods of time.

  • Purchase less toxic products. These products are safer for the environment and safer for you. It is good to purchase products that have had life cycle analysis performed on them. Look for products that contain less toxic chemicals. Some common “green certification” websites include:

  • Shop at stores that are more environmentally friendly. Palo Alto Hardware has a whole line of green products that are safe for the environment as does Country Sun Natural Foods and Whole Foods Market to name a few.
    • For a list visit Green Businesses.
    • When purchasing paint ask the sales professionals to help you calculate your coverage amount. Coverage amount is the calculated volume of paint needed to paint a given square footage. This saves you money and you purchase only what you need!

  • The most difficult types of household products to recycle are cleaners, corrosives, and poisons (including fertilizers, pesticides, and medicines). It is important to use these types of chemicals sparingly and to completion.

 

History

Palo Alto’s HHW Program began in 1983. Palo Alto was one of the first jurisdictions in the state to provide collection of household hazardous wastes to its residents in response to community concerns about toxic wastes in the environment. The objectives of the HHW Program were to provide a point of contact for educating the public about the safe use, storage, disposal and alternatives to hazardous products , and to help reduce the release of HHW to storm drains, landfill and the sanitary sewer. In 1986, the Tanner Bill (AB 2948) was passed requiring counties to establish hazardous waste management plans (Health & Safety Code 25135-25135.9). In 1987, the Greene Bill (SB 477) was passed requiring each City to either adopt a city hazardous waste management plan or incorporate the County’s plan into the City’s plan.

In 1989, AB 939 was passed mandating that cities adopt and submit a HHW Element, a document that sets policies, objectives and programs for collection of HHW in compliance with state mandates. Palo Alto’s Household Hazardous Waste Element (HHWE) (June, 1991) evaluated HHW alternatives and selected the development of a permanent HHW facility to phase out the monthly collection events that were taking place during that time. At the time, since Palo Alto’s program predated the Santa Clara County (SCC) program, and since Palo Alto had a mature well-run HHW program, Palo Alto decided to continue its own program instead of joining the SCC HHW Program.

Initially the HHW Program was operated by volunteer City staff and collection days were infrequent. As the program grew, the collection days increased to four times per year and the City contracted out staffing to a hazardous waste management company. Now collection days are offered every Saturday and the first Friday of the month.