Is Your Used Oil Just Oil?

Used oil and filtersUsed motor oil is one of the most common items brought to our Household Hazardous Waste Collection Facility. About 22,000 gallons of used oil is brought in for recycling each year by our residential customers.

Due to a couple of recent contamination issues, we’re asking everyone who performs their own vehicle maintenance or repair to never mix chemicals with their used oil.

Oil that is contaminated with chemicals cannot be recycled.

When used oil is brought to our facility, we transfer it to a large storage barrel that can hold 4,000 gallons. If we unknowingly receive oil that has been mixed with chemicals, it will contaminate all of the oil being stored, rendering it useless. In addition to needlessly wasting up to 4,000 gallons of oil (which could have been recycled and used for more than 2,300 oil changes), receiving contaminated oil can cost us thousands of dollars in clean-up costs because our oil storage barrels and equipment must be decontaminated.

Please do not mix anything with your used oil. This includes:

• parts cleaner solvent
• antifreeze
• brake fluid
• paint
• pesticides
• cleaners
• water (a small amount is okay)

If the oil has been contaminated, we can still accept it. Write “Contaminated oil” on the container and point it out so we know to handle it separately.

Please help us continue to accept and recycle your used oil. Let’s work together to reduce waste and conserve our resources!

Shining a Light on Hidden Toxins

Fluorescent lamps
Fluorescent lights contain mercury, one of the most toxic substances on earth.
Old ballasts (the electrical component of fluorescent light fixtures) can contain polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), highly toxic synthetic chemicals (banned in 1978).

Don’t worry. You will not be exposed to mercury or PCBs when using fluorescent lights.

But please keep this in mind when changing out light fixtures: If you improperly dispose of fluorescent lights or ballasts and they break apart, their toxins can leach into ground water or surface waters, causing serious harm to the environment.

The best way to safely dispose of fluorescent lights and ballasts is to bring them to our Household Hazardous Waste Collection Facility

• For fluorescent lights, put them in their original packaging, if possible. Otherwise, wrap them in newspaper to keep them from breaking. Secure them in your trunk or truck bed to avoid broken glass or mercury exposure in case of an accident. Please do not tape tubes together, as they will need to be loose to be recycled.

• Ballasts that do not contain PCBs are marked “No PCBs” on their labels. If a ballast is not so marked, assume it contains PCBs and bring it to the facility, but remove the ballast from the light fixture first. If the ballast is leaking, put it in a sealable plastic bag, and place all cleanup materials (rags, wipes, etc.) into the bag with it.

Fluorescents Are Still a Good Choice; LEDs are Better

Fluorescent lights are still a good choice because they use less energy than incandescent lamps and last up to ten times longer. Reducing energy use cuts down on power plant emissions of mercury and other pollutants.

Better yet, use LED (Light Emitting Diode) lights. LED lights are even more energy efficient, do not contain mercury or other hazardous materials, and can be put in the trash.

Please call 1-800-646-1431 for more information.

Mercury-Free Solar Fever Thermometers are Hot!

Mercury is highly toxic.

If you drop and break an old-fashioned mercury fever thermometer in a sink, its mercury could go down the drain and get into the wastewater that flows through sewers to the treatment plant. However, the treatment process cannot remove all traces of mercury, so some will end up in local waters, causing harm to aquatic life.

Because of this, the sale of mercury fever thermometers was banned in California years ago. But some people still have them at home. Digital thermometers are much better for the environment.

That’s why Central San will give a free digital solar (no batteries!) thermometer to our customers who bring an old mercury-filled thermometer to our Household Hazardous Waste Collection Facility for safe disposal!

solar digital thermometers
Replace mercury-filled thermometers with solar digital ones!

For more information, please call 1-800-646-1431.

How to Bring Items to Our HHW Facility

Planning to bring items to our Household Hazardous Waste Collection Facility? Here’s how to have a safe trip.

HHW Packing
Pack your items carefully before transporting them to the facility.

Are you planning to bring paint, batteries, bleach, cleansers, motor oil, pesticides, fluorescent bulbs or other items to our Household Hazardous Waste Collection Facility? First, think about that word, “hazardous.” Now think about the interior of your vehicle. Think about you being inside the vehicle with something hazardous… driving on roads shared by people who might be distracted.

Frightened? Don’t be! The last thing we want to do is scare you away from using our facility!

But we DO want you to be careful about how you pack and transport the items you bring. Check out this video, and/or read the tips below.

Here’s how to SAFELY transport household hazardous waste to our facility:

NOTE: State regulations limit the transportation of hazardous waste to 15 gallons or 125 pounds per trip, and individual containers are limited to 5-gallon capacity.

• Get a cardboard box (or plastic bin) sturdy enough to support the weight of the contents. Reinforce the bottom of the cardboard box with tape.

• Line the box with a plastic garbage bag (to catch spills). Fold the flaps of the box inward, place the bag inside the box, and drape it over the sides. Do NOT close the bag (our staff need to easily see what’s inside).

• Make sure all items you’ll be bringing to the facility have tightly closed lids. NEVER transport open containers!

• Keep items in their original packaging, if possible – especially with easily breakable items like fluorescent light bulbs. If you don’t have the original packaging for fluorescent bulbs or tubes, wrap a rubber band around them to keep them from rolling around in your vehicle.

• If an item is leaking, seal it within a Ziploc-style plastic bag.

• Place the items inside the lined box.

• Pack mercury-containing items (fever thermometers, thermostats, fluorescent light bulbs) carefully and keep them separate from other items that might break them if jostled.

• Put the box in your trunk or truck bed – never inside the passenger cabin. Secure the box to prevent movement.

• Drive to the facility and let our friendly staff remove your items while you remain comfortable inside your vehicle.

It really is worth the effort. Bringing your household hazardous waste to our facility helps to keep harmful materials out of our local waters and landfills.

There is no drop-off fee and no appointment necessary for residents of central Contra Costa County. Small businesses require an appointment and are charged a nominal fee.

Please call  1-800-646-1431 or view our Household Hazardous Waste Facility page for more information.