San Diego, California Hazardous Waste Disposal

Author: Marketing
Date: February 3, 2024

The City of San Diego is the 8th largest city in the United States and the 2nd largest city in the state of California. With an estimated population of 1.4 million from a July 2019 survey, the city naturally takes hazardous waste disposal very seriously. Violators of laws and regulations related to hazardous waste disposal carry corresponding sanctions, fines and other serious legal consequences.

In fact, random inspections of the city’s commercial and residential refuse are conducted by the City of San Diego’s Hazardous Substances Enforcement Team. They are responsible for ensuring that unacceptable hazardous waste types are not disposed of in the city’s Miramar Landfill. Thanks to these inspections, 16 tons of unacceptable hazardous waste was diverted successfully during the fiscal year of 2019.

If you are managing a business that generates hazardous waste or if you are simply looking to see where and how you can dispose of household hazardous waste then this article will be helpful for you. This article provides a brief yet comprehensive guide on hazardous waste disposal in the City of San Diego.

Hazardous Waste Disposal & Collection

If you’ve ever asked or searched online “hazardous waste disposal near me”, then this section answers this common query. This information is critical to make sure you know exactly when and where you can drop off your household hazardous waste and electronics.

What Does The City of San Diego Consider “Hazardous Waste”?

Hazardous Waste Definition

Waste that has properties that are potentially harmful to both human health and the environment is considered as hazardous waste. 

Because the definition of hazardous waste is broad and diverse, here are some important points to remember:

  • Hazardous wastes can be in the form of liquid, solid or contained gas.
  • By-products of manufacturing processes included used or unused discarded materials, used or unused discarded commercial products such as cleaning solvents or pesticides.
  • In regulatory terms, types of waste that appear in any one of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act's (RCRA) lists - List F, List P and List U - are considered hazardous waste.
  • If the waste type exhibits one of the four characteristics of hazardous waste - ignitability, corrosivity, reactivity, or toxicity - then it can also be considered hazardous waste.
  • Materials can still also be considered hazardous waste even if they do not appear in the specific RCRA list or do not exhibit the characteristics of hazardous waste e.g., in the state of California, used oil products which contain materials found in California's M-list and contaminated soil from a cleanup program can also be deemed as hazardous wastes.

You can view specific hazardous waste regulations and statutes, at the DTSC Laws page. You can also visit the California Hazardous Waste Codes for a complete list of codes.

Where & How Should I Dispose of Hazardous Waste in San Diego?

Business-Generated Hazardous Waste

This type of hazardous waste is generated by businesses that generate, produce or utilize materials and substances that are considered hazardous waste. Common examples are:

  • Paints
  • Thinners
  • Solvents Or Cleaning Fluids
  • Materials That Burn Or Itch On Contact With Skin
  • Materials That Dissolve Metal, Wood, Paper Or Clothing
  • Pesticides
  • Products With A Warning Label Such As "Flammable," "Caustic," "Danger," "Hazardous" Or "Poison."

Proper Disposal of Business-Generated Hazardous Waste

The State of California does not permit the City of San Diego's Household Hazardous Materials Program to accept any type of business-generated hazardous waste. However, the City does offer disposal services to Conditionally Exempt Small Quantity Generators or (CESQGs).

Is your business or facility a small or large quantity hazardous waste generator? This depends on the amount of hazardous waste produced per month.

Find out which Waste Generator Class your business or facility belongs to. See Hazardous Waste Generator Classes here.

If you require information, it is recommended for you to contact the County of San Diego, Department of Environmental Health, Hazardous Materials Management Division, Duty Specialist, at (858) 505-6880.

Household Hazardous Waste

Common household hazardous waste include used, discarded or expired paints, household cleaners, paints, lighter fluid, pool chemicals, antifreeze, diesel fuel, gasoline and kerosene. 

Products labeled "danger, warning, poison, caution, flammable and corrosive," are considered household hazardous waste. In addition, it was declared on Feb. 9, 2006, that universal wastes including fluorescent light bulbs, household batteries and items that contain mercury are not allowed to be disposed of in the trash, as well.

Where & How Should I Dispose Of Household Hazardous Waste in San Diego?

According to the City of San Diego's waste management regulations, it is illegal to dispose of any household hazardous waste in a trash bin or at the landfill. 

For correct disposal of household hazardous wastes and universal wastes, the City of San Diego's residents are required to contact San Diego's Household Hazardous Waste Transfer Facility. 

The facility is located by the entrance of the Miramar Landfill and is operated by the San Diego Environmental Services Department. Residents are required to make an appointment with the facility by contacting (858) 694-7000 (Monday through Friday, 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.). They are open on Saturdays to those with appointments only.

Other than making an appointment, you also need to know what type of waste the San Diego Household Hazardous Waste Transfer Facility accepts or doesn’t accept. Here is the information you need:

Acceptable Household Hazardous Wastes

All products used in the routine maintenance of your home, yard, or vehicle are considered household hazardous waste when discarded. You can easily identify these products because these would be usually labeled: “Danger”, “Warning”, “Caution”, “Poison”, “Flammable”, or “Corrosive”.

Unacceptable Household Hazardous Wastes

  • Business Waste (contractors, landscapers, homeowner associations)
  • Waste from non-profit organizations
  • Appliances
  • Asbestos waste
  • Containers larger than five (5) gallons in size.
  • Compressed gas cylinders (other than propane cylinders & fire extinguishers)
  • Electronics
  • Explosives (ammunition, fireworks, marine flares)
  • Lead paint waste
  • PCB Capacitors and Transformers (Polychlorinated Biphenyls)
  • Radioactive material

If you require assistance with any unacceptable wastes, the proper instructions are to enter your information on the “HHW Transfer Facility Appointment screen and an Inspector will contact you within three (3) business days.”

How Much HHW Can I Dispose Of?

For safety purposes, a maximum of 15 gallons of HHW (125 lbs.) is allowable for transport to the San Diego Household Hazardous Waste Transfer Facility. This weight requirement refers to the contents of the container and not the size of the container itself.

Where Can I Drop Off Electronics Waste & Appliances?

It’s illegal in the state of California to dispose of any electronic devices in regular garbage/recycling containers. This includes items like:

  • Computers
  • Monitors
  • Televisions

Various e-waste recycling locations throughout the city accept e-waste. In addition, San Diego also hosts various clean-up events throughout the year.

Acceptable Electronic Waste

The City of San Diego doesn’t accept e-waste. It recommends electronic waste recycling for the following items:

  • Cellphones
  • Computer monitors/printers/CPUs
  • Cordless phones
  • DVD/VHS players
  • Laptop computers
  • Phone answering machines
  • Radios
  • VCRs

Acceptable Appliances

These are typically permitted at HHW centers, however, it’s always prudent to contact the facility before dropping them off.

  • Air conditioning
  • Dehumidifiers
  • Freezers
  • Refrigerant-containing items
  • Refrigerators

These items contain either HCFC or CFC refrigerants based on when they were manufactured. The EPA website provides information about CFC dangers. 

To find an e-waste recycling facility close to you, the City of San Diego recommends for you to use this locator from CalRecycle.

Hazardous Wastes That Require Pre Approval

If you are a resident of the City of San Diego or if you own a business, and you generate the following wastes, you need pre approval before disposal:

  • contaminated soil,
  • industrial solid waste (such as waste from sandblasting operations or other waste containing hazardous or potentially hazardous contaminants),
  • non-friable asbestos, or
  • treated wood

You are required to complete a Special Waste Disposal Request and attach required supporting documents. It takes about 24 hours to process before your load can be scheduled for disposal. Manifest and handling fees apply. 

For information on the disposal of business generated hazardous wastes, contact the San Diego County Department of Environmental Health, Hazardous Materials Division at 858-505-6880 and for chemical emergencies call 911.


If you have unacceptable waste that needs to be disposed of or if you need to dispose of waste that is more than the allowable amount, you can contact the San Diego Household Hazardous Waste Transfer Facility at 858-694-7000.

You can also find all the information you need here.

You can also contact local HHW centers around San Diego. For accurate information, you can find the closest HHW Drop-Off Facilities from Earth911.com.

What Are Household Hazardous Waste Collection Events?

In some situations, San Diego residents are allowed to drop off various household hazardous waste. These hazardous waste collection events happen periodically on certain days and certain times. 

For example, the Environmental Services Department of San Diego offers one-day collection events during the year. This is supported through a California State’s grant from the Department of Resources, Recycling, and Recovery (CalRecycle). 

Here’s information about acceptable, unacceptable and deposit limits for the City of San Diego’s HHW collection events:

Acceptable/Unacceptable HHW

The drop-off event organizers will provide a complete list of items that are accepted during the waste disposal event. Take some time to review the list, so you’ll know what is and isn’t allowed by the event’s organizers. Some possible accepted items include:

  • Household/Car batteries
  • Oil
  • Antifreeze
  • Oil Filters
  • Fluorescent bulbs

Make sure to contact the event’s organizers. In some situations, another disposal option is necessary.

Deposit Limits

It’s quite common for a drop-off center to impose a limit on how much waste it will collect from individual households. This could include a maximum amount of liquid waste or solid waste accepted.

Service Charges

San Diego city doesn’t charge any fees for items dropped off at the HHW collection centers. The government perceives these events as an investment in public health and the local environment.

Business Participation

Businesses typically aren’t permitted to participate in these events. However, the events’ sponsors often provide low-cost options for the proper disposal of business waste.

The City of San Diego’s official website posts regular upcoming HHW collection events here: Upcoming One Day Collection Events.

Safety Tips For Transporting Hazardous Waste

Other than finding the closest hazardous waste collection near you, it’s also important to know general SOP’s:

  • Learn the drop-off center’s days and times. Make sure to learn the normal days/times.
  • The drop-off center accepts materials. In some situations, the center might have temporary times during certain months or seasons.
  • Check if materials could be stored in your home.
  • Find out if you can take this step until a future date. When you don’t need to use the site, you should try to avoid needing to take that step. This includes issues like you cannot store materials or you’re planning a home relocation.
  • Research if certain restrictions or requirements apply. This can include different issues. For example, you’ll likely be required to bring either an ID card or utility bill as proof of residency.
  • You should also find out whether or not the center’s staff members can help with unloading your household waste materials. For example, residents of the City of San Diego can be required to make an appointment before dropping off hazardous waste at the HHW Transfer Facility.
  • Consider following CDC guidelines. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have established guidelines to help prevent the spread of contagions. They include wearing face coverings like masks, which can help to prevent inhaling toxic fumes from hazardous waste.

Each drop-off center will likely have different safety rules/guidelines. Here are some of the most common ones:

  • Remaining in vehicle
    In some situations, you might be required to stay in your car or truck and not walk waste material into the disposal site. You’ll likely be required to show your ID or utility bill for your proof of residency.
  • Disposing of waste in carts
    This is a typical procedure during hazardous waste collection. You’ll be required to exit your vehicle and deposit the HHW into the carts.

Look out for items used to improve traffic flow. This includes different items like:

  • Traffic cones
  • Signs
  • Barricades
  • Gates

For tips, information and details about household hazardous waste in San Diego, you can visit their official Household Hazardous Waste webpage.

Why Should I Properly Dispose of Hazardous Waste and Electronics?

Health Risks

The dangers of improperly disposing of hazardous wastes might not be apparent at first. However, improper disposal of household wastes can cause issues related to public health and San Diego’s environment.

 Several possible health-related issues can result from improper disposal. The health of people living in areas nearby landfills or polluted areas can also be negatively affected. 

For example, the Miramar Landfill collects nearly 910,000 tons of garbage every year. Landfill workers cover the California city’s garbage daily while complying with city/state environmental and regulatory requirements.

 San Diego sanitation workers and landfill employees are at a higher risk. Possible health issues include blood infections, breathing problems, skin irritations, and growth issues.

Air Contamination

Household waste that contains hazardous chemicals like acids and bleach should be properly disposed of. The items should also be disposed of in official containers with proper labels.

 When certain plastics and papers are incinerated in landfills, this can give off gas/chemicals that can damage the Earth’s ozone layer.

 Dioxin-releasing wastes can also cause health risks when they’re emitted into the air. This can cause health considerations when they’re inhaled. Yet another possible issue is when decomposing wastes give off methane gases.

This situation is especially critical for San Diego. The region was recently ranked as the USA’s fifth-most polluted metropolitan area, according to a report by CBS8.

Soil Contamination

This is often caused by improper HHW disposal. Waste that ends up in landfills can leak into soil and give off toxic chemicals. This includes plastic bottles that give off a cancer-causing substance known as DEHA that can cause weight loss and liver problems.

Not only are plants themselves affected by soil contamination. California residents who consume plants can be negatively affected.

Negative Effects Animals & Marine Life

When garbage and waste are disposed of improperly, it causes negative effects on nearby animals and marine life, such as fishes.

 Land animals that eat grass near landfills or contaminated areas are at risk of suffering poisoning because of soil contamination. Meanwhile, studies show that household waste like Styrofoam peanuts can kill marine animals that consume them.

Advocacy group Heal the Bay ranked over a dozen San Diego beaches as among the top 33 most polluted beaches in the Golden State, according to the New York Times.


Modern homes produce a gargantuan amount of household hazardous waste (HHW). It’s critical to dispose of the big amounts of waste effectively since it can benefit several groups, including San Diego household members, sanitation workers, and local residents.

There are various ways to dispose of HHW such as drop-off centers, household waste disposal events, and Waste Mobiles. It’s important to know the rules and regulations about how to effectively store, transport, and deposit your household waste.

Furthermore, it’s also critical to know which items will be accepted or rejected when depositing HHW. Some items like fluorescent light bulbs, paint thinners, and cell phone batteries are often accepted. However, there are other items like radioactive wastes that typically are a no-go at drop-off centers like Miramar Landfill. Finding out the 5 W’s (who, what, where, when, and why) is as critical as learning about hazardous waste disposal.


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