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Throw it Away; Go to Jail
January 24, 2006

From Assembly Member Loni Hancock:


I am writing to make you aware of a very important change in California law that is about to go into effect, which will impact every household in the state:


Beginning February 9, 2006, it will be ILLEGAL to dispose of waste batteries, electronic devices, fluorescent light bulbs and mercury-containing thermostats in the trash.  These waste items are known as “universal wastes” and must be recycled or taken to a household hazardous waste disposal facility.


Universal wastes are hazardous wastes that are generated by several sectors of society, rather than a single industry or type of business. Hazardous wastes contain harmful chemicals, which, if put in the trash, are harmful to the environment and public health. These items include:


Electronic Devices: Televisions and computer monitors, computers, printers, VCRs, cell phones, mp3 players, telephones, radios, and microwave ovens. These devices often contain heavy metals like lead, cadmium, copper, and chromium.


Batteries: All batteries of sizes AAA, AA, C, D, button cell, 9 Volt, and all other batteries, both rechargeable and single use. These contain a corrosive chemical that can cause burns as well as toxic heavy metals like cadmium.


Fluorescent Tubes and Bulbs and Other Mercury-Containing Lamps: These lights contain mercury vapor that may be released into the environment when they are broken. Mercury is a toxic metal that can cause harm to people and animals including nerve damage and birth defects. If mercury is released into the environment it can contaminate the air we breathe and enter streams, rivers, and the ocean.


To find out more information on universal waste and how to dispose of it, please contact:


In Alameda County:               Alameda County Household Hazardous Waste Program




In Contra Costa County:       Contra Costa County Household Hazardous Waste Program




Free home pickup of household hazardous waste from seniors ages 60 and older and disabled residents of El Sobrante, El Cerrito, Hercules, Pinole, Richmond and San Pablo is now available by calling 800/449-7587 for more information and to make an appointment.

This free collection service is in addition to West County’s drop-off facility for household hazardous waste available year-round, every Thursday, Friday and first Saturday from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM (closed noon to 12:30 for lunch) at 101 Pittsburg Avenue in Richmond. The facility’s phone number is 888/412-9277.