Long Beach residents could be paying more for their trash to be picked up starting in September as the city tries to keep pace with increasing costs and the need for new equipment for a new organic recycling program that is expected to launch next year.
Residents currently pay about $28.99 per month for trash and recycling collection, but a memo released by the city Friday said those rates could increase to $40.87 by January 2023, a 34% increase.
Commercial businesses and multi-family residences would also see increases that would vary based on how large of a container is at the property and how often it is picked up.
The increases would be broken up, with one going into effect in September and the second increase happening in January.
“City staff understands the proposed rate increase may seem significant, but it is necessary to meet operational costs increases,” Public Works Director Eric Lopez said in the memo.
The cost of disposing of trash has increased by about $6 per ton since 2020, according to the city, and under the current rates the city’s refuse fund was in danger of becoming insolvent by the middle of next year, Lopez said. Even with the rate increases, Long Beach would be below cities like Sacramento, San Jose, Oakland and Los Angeles that charge between a few dollars and $100 more per month for similar service.
Under Proposition 218, cities are only allowed to charge fees that cover the cost of providing a service, and any increases are subject to a public hearing, which the city is planning on holding Aug. 23.
Those fees can help departments maintain a surplus to fund emergency purchases or to help level out potential increases by using reserves, something the city had been doing.
However, the city’s reserves are low and without a rate increase, this year would only have enough money to cover less than a month of operations in the event of an emergency, according to a report from HF&H Consultants.
Part of the rate increases is expected to go toward the city’s launch of its organic recycling program that is mandated under Senate Bill 1383. The bill signed into law in 2016 gave California cities until 2022 to divert organic materials like food scraps, yard waste and paper away from landfills in an effort to substantially reduce methane from decomposition from entering the atmosphere.
A second piece of legislation extended the compliance date and now cities like Long Beach have until the end of 2023 to launch their program or face fines. The commercial program is expected to start later this year and Public Works officials say the residential program will start in 2023.
Joy Contreras, a spokesperson for Public Works, said that the city’s consultant is working to have an estimate by the end of the year after it analyzes a community survey that was circulated by the city and ends today.
“As soon as we finalized the survey data, our consultants are working at warp speed to be able to assess the data,” Contreras said.
The proposed rate increases in the coming months would help pay for 4,850 new organic carts for commercial customers and 27,500 carts for residential accounts, although that would only account for about 25% of what is needed to eventually service all homes in Long Beach, according to HF&H report.
They would also help the city finance eight new trucks needed to pick up the organic waste and hire 17 employees that will do public outreach, help create food recovery programs and enforce the separation of organic material from other refuse, something that is required under the new law.
In total, the report estimates that about $7.8 million needs to be spent in the next two fiscal years to ensure compliance by the end of 2023.
Contreras said a separate cost estimate for what rates will look like for residents once the program is fully implemented could be released by the end of the year.