Recycling and Managing Toxic Products for City Departments

San Francisco City departments set a high bar for reducing waste, buying green, increasing reuse and recycling, and properly handling of hazardous wastes.  City staff who distinguish themselves as green champions may also receive special recognition through our Buy Green Scorecard.

What is hazardous waste?

Hazardous waste is defined as waste that is either flammable, toxic, corrosive, or reactive.  Discarded products that meet one of these criteria are illegal to put in the landfill, and cannot go in any recycling or refuse containers.  City departments could be fined up to $25,000/day for violations.  Products that require special handling include:

  • Aerosol cans

  • Asbestos-containing building materials

  • Automotive products (antifreeze and other fluids, car lights, motor oil and filters, tires, oil soaked rags)

  • Batteries–automotive (lead-acid), alkaline, or rechargeable

  • Paints, thinners, solvents

  • Cleaning products, pesticides, or other chemicals

  • Electronic products—any item with a video display or circuit board

  • Fluorescent bulbs and tubes, high intensity discharge bulbs, or any lights containing mercury

  • Items made of lead, such as wheel weights

  • Mercury thermometers, switches and thermostats

  • Gas cylinders, tanks or other pressurized vessels

  • Pressure-treated wood

  • Lamp ballasts or capacitors that do not say “No PCBs”

Reuse if you can.                                 

If you have items or supplies that are still usable – computer monitors, for example – contact the Virtual Warehouse first.  The Virtual Warehouse is an on-line system for SF city employees to submit and receive gently used appliances, electronics, office furniture & supplies.

Get boxes for batteries and electronics.

Get free boxes to recycle rechargeable batteries, cell phones, digital cameras, or smart phones. Once the box is full, call the delivery person and ship it for free. (How to erase data on phones).

Schedule a pickup of other hazardous products.

The Department of Public Health operates a service to collect hazardous wastes (such as nonrechargeable batteries, cleaning products, fluorescent tubes, or paints) from other City departments, using a licensed hauler.  

Reduce waste in the future: Buy less.

The best way to reduce toxic waste is to buy less in the first place, so check the Virtual Warehouse site before buying new items.  

Reduce waste in the future: Buy safer products.

San Francisco City departments are required by ordinance to buy environmentally preferable, or green, products. The law applies to departmental/Prop Q purchases as well as purchases from Citywide contracts. We made it easy by compiling the SF Approved List – the City’s own green product catalog.  SF Approved contains:

  • Green products currently on citywide term contracts. 
  • Names of vendors carrying the products
  • Information on specifications or ecolabels for buying products
  • Product reviews by people like you

Additional Information for Recycling and Managing Toxic Products for City Departments

SF Approved List
San Francisco's own green products catalog for City departments. Includes green specifications, green products on City contracts, vendor information, and product reviews by City users.